Winter is upon us. It’s the time of year for warm jumpers, fireplaces, and generally staying indoors. Unfortunately, your garden doesn’t have that luxury and has to brave the cold. By giving your garden a little TLC now you can help get it ready to take on the big chill and ensure it flourishes once again come Spring.
By a few simple preparations for the big chill you are actively protecting your garden against:
- The spread of diseases
- Your outdoor pots from cracking/frosting over
- Your outdoor structures from rot
- Garden pest infestation
- Poor flower displays in the new year
- Bad ground for planting in the new year
Protect Your Tender Plants
Plants have a categorisation that determines their ability to grow in adverse conditions. This is called ‘hardiness’. Tender plants are at the bottom of the scale and need extra care to protect them from weather conditions that hardy plants would be able to thrive in. Examples of tender plants include: Canna Lilies, Dahlia’s, Tree Ferns, and Banana Plants.
One way to protect your tender plants is to move them indoors when frost starts to set in. By staying in the warm, you can protect them until Spring when they will be able to handle the weather better. You can move these plants into greenhouses, sheds, or even into your own home.
Some tender plants can be left outside in the weather, but must be covered with layers of protection. This protection will ensure that the tender plant (for example, banana plants) will flourish through winter and into Spring. The protection can be made of a number of materials, including horticultural fleece, or even straw.
Protect Your Pots from Frost Damage
Plants love pots in summer, but in winter they can be exposed to the low temperatures and the risk of frost damage. They are also prone to waterlogging thanks to the increased rain-fall. This can kill the plant roots, as the increased water will push air out from the soil meaning the plant cannot absorb any oxygen.
Pots are also at risk of cracking during Winter, especially during cold spells where rain water will freeze inside the soil. This is because water expands when it freezes, so will increase the pressure within the pot eventually causing it to crack. When a pot is damaged, it will cost you double, once for a new pot and once for the replacement plant.
To prevent your garden pots cracking in the Winter, there are a few preventative measures. The first is to simply bring your pots indoors. You can also buy weather resistant pots, that have been pre-treated to prevent your compost freezing. Finally, you could bring the pots closer to the house, as the temperatures are warmer closer to the bricks.
Store Your Garden Furniture
Garden furniture is great in the Summer and can be left outside most of the time. However, come the colder months, your garden furniture is at risk of damage from the weather. This will inevitably cost you, as you will likely have to either fork out for repairs, or buy replacement furniture in the Spring.
The best way to prevent the deterioration of your garden furniture is to give it a good clean every now and then, most pieces of furniture can be cleaned with water and soap. This will help prevent dirt, mould and mildew build up which could lead to wood rot if left untreated. Obviously, this will not be the case for metal garden furniture but rust can affect its overall look if not weatherproofed sufficiently.
Once clean and dry the best way to protect your furniture during the Winter is to keep it out of the elements, by storing it in a shed or garage if you have space. If space is limited then using a waterproof cover will keep off rainwater, which in turn prevents mould and mildew build up. A much cheaper option than having to shell out on new chairs every Spring.
Put Your Borders to Bed
A few simple tasks in Autumn will ensure your beds and borders are ready to spring into action come the warmer weather. You should first cut back your perennials, and remove any weeds as soon as you see them. Remember to remove the roots, not just the leaves.
The window for spring flowering bulbs is closing fast, late November/early December is the last chance you are going to have to plant them. For more information, please feel free to read our Spring Flowering Bulbs guide.
Unlike those in pots, you aren’t able to bring your tender border plants inside to protect them from Winter. They are the most at risk from frost damage and other problems that come with the deep chill. It is therefore important to ensure they have adequate protection to see them through the chilly temperatures of Winter.
Once you have prepared the ground, planted your Spring bulbs and protected tender plants, you can choose to give your borders a good mulch to seal in moisture, suppress weed growth and improve the overall soil condition.
Remove Fallen Leaves
There are times in Autumn when clearing fallen leaves seems a never-ending task, but it’s good to keep on top of this job as being left to rot on the ground brings a number of risks to your garden. Large piles of decomposing leaves can spread plant diseases and infection around your garden. A large build-up of leaves can also prevent light reaching your winter flowers, effectively cutting them off from their food source. Wet leaves on paths, driveways and patio areas can also be extremely slippery making those areas hazardous to walk on if left.
Clearing leaves regularly not only make your garden look tidy, but if mulched they make a fantastic compost for your garden.
Look After Your Garden Wildlife
Looking after your garden wildlife is a very rewarding part of gardening. The fact is that if you are looking after the wildlife, they will look after you by keeping out pests, bugs and slugs, and helping pollinate flowers, fruit and vegetables.
The best way to look after your wildlife over Winter is to provide them with food, water and shelter. Restock food and water for birds daily. Leave areas of the garden ‘wild’, with piles of leaf litter and logs. Not only does this act as an attractive nest for hedgehogs, but will also welcome invertebrates (slugs, beetles) that they like to eat.
If you’re lucky enough to have a hedgehog, leaving out food like minced meat, tinned dog or cat food (not fish-based), crushed cat biscuits, or chopped boiled eggs will have them returning regularly. But never feed them milk as it can cause diarrhoea; instead provide plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl.
We all love to see our gardens flourish in the Summer, but don’t want our hard work to go to waste in the Winter. It is important to protect your garden from cold temperatures, to ensure that your garden is as beautiful next year as it was this year. For help with getting your garden Winter ready, please give Thames Valley Landscapes a call on 01628 629720.