Posts Tagged ‘winter gardening’

Give Pests the Boot!

November 13th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

A gardener tending to their garden in the winter

Tidying up the garden for winter is a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to leave hiding places for pests to overwinter. But on the other, you want to ensure that beneficial bugs – including pest predators – have somewhere safe to sit out the cold so they’re about for the next growing season. The advice we’re given to banish pests often has the unintended effect of discouraging beneficials too. So what is a wildlife-friendly gardener to do?

Read on or watch the video and we’ll help you to achieve that all-important balance.

Should I Cover or Expose Soil?

Perhaps the greatest area of confusion lies around whether or not to cover the ground or leave it exposed to the cleansing effects of frost and hungry birds. In general, it’s best to follow nature’s lead and keep soil covered during winter. Lay thick mulches of garden compost, leaf mould or other organic matter over the surface to stave off soil erosion and sustain beneficial soil dwellers such as earthworms and ground beetles.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost binIn areas of the garden where pests have been a problem a good compromise is to delay laying down organic matter until midway through winter, or rake back mulches during cold snaps to temporarily expose ground. Raking or lightly forking the soil will help to reveal lurking grubs both to frosts and insect-eating birds, helping to dent their numbers before spring. This is a particularly good technique to use around fruit trees, bushes and canes, where leaves of any plants that were affected by pests or diseases should also be raked up and removed.

To Weed or Not to Weed?

When it comes to weeding, the best course of action depends on the type of weeds you’re dealing with.

Late autumn and early winter is a good time to get rid of perennial weeds, whose growth should hopefully have slowed enough for you to finally catch up with them! Be thorough and remove all of their roots too, otherwise they’ll just regrow again.

While weeding clears growing areas ready for springtime sowings, don’t be too hasty. Annual weeds like bittercress and deadnettle can be left to provide insect habitat and protect the soil over winter, before hoeing them off in the spring. Just be sure to remove them before they produce seeds.

Where possible, seedlings of self-seeding flowers such as calendula or nigella should be left to attract next season’s beneficial bugs because they’ll flower earlier than new sowings. And clumps of nettles left untouched in an out-of-the-way spot are a great food source for many beautiful butterflies and pest-hungry predators such as ladybirds.

Stop Pests Overwintering on Fruit Trees

A glue trap on a fruit tree in winter to deter pests such as winter moth caterpillarsThe bark on fruit trees offers good hiding places for pests like aphids and scale insects. Once all the leaves have dropped you can apply a winter tree wash to bare branches. This is a natural plant or fish oil-based treatment which should be sprayed on a windless day to avoid drifting. It will help to control pest numbers while causing minimal impact to other wildlife. But as with all treatments, it’s best to only use it if you’ve experienced pest problems on your trees during the previous growing season.

Paint tree barrier glues, or tie on grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to help prevent damage caused by winter moth caterpillars. The sticky barriers prevent the egg-laying wingless female moths from climbing up into the canopy from ground level. Grease bands work best on trees with smoother bark where moths won’t be able to simply crawl under them, while glues are best for trees with deeply fissured bark.

Clean Greenhouses and Cold Frames

Winter’s a good time for a thorough clean of greenhouses and cold frames. Move everything out and clean greenhouse staging, all equipment and dirty pots and trays too. Leave it to dry while you then clean the glass using water with a little added natural disinfectant or greenhouse cleaning solution. Be sure to get into every corner, crack and crevice, any way you can!

Spaces for Beneficial Bugs

To keep beneficial bugs onside leave the rest of the garden a little wilder during the colder months. Allow grass to grow longer so caterpillars and other bugs can bury themselves into the thatch. Hollow stems and fallen leaves should be left where possible to provide habitat for all manner of insects. Old seed heads give shelter to ladybirds and other pest predators – and food for hungry birds. Cut them back in spring just before growth resumes. Hold off digging in ornamental borders until spring too – and then only if absolutely necessary – so that insects such as bumblebees can sit out the winter in peace.

You can provide additional homes for beneficial bugs by dotting bug hotels – big and small – around the garden, and, as long as you’re not in an area with termites, by creating log or stone piles, which will also prove popular with small mammals and amphibians such as toads.

So tackle pests where they have been an issue, but hang back from being too tidy to give the good guys have somewhere safe and secure to bed down for winter. Do you have any tips for booting out pests while giving beneficial bugs a helping hand? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

November Gardening Advice

November 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

The spiky shell of a chestnut conker partially open. The nut lies on autumn leaves on the ground and peeks out of the shell.

The smell of wood burning, the crackle of bonfires and the colourful explosion of fireworks means we’re into November, so get your month off to a bang by wrapping up warm and embracing the season. Light home fires, collect conkers and enjoy hearty soups made from your homegrown vegetables. This is the cosy season!

However, don’t get too comfortable. There are still plenty of gardening jobs to be done, which will keep you warm on a chilly autumnal day.

But if venturing out into the cold doesn’t appeal to you, then kick-back in front of a warming fire and reminisce over your recent growing season. Think about your growing successes, the failures, and then consider what you want to grow, or change, next year. Draw up lists, make plans, and think ahead. If you need inspiration then go online and look at what other people have achieved. The internet is full of gardening websites, blogs and forums, by gardeners who inspire and pass on seeds of good advice.

Start planning now! Because before you know it, spring will be knocking on your door.

In the flower garden

Perennials

Perennial plants have done their job and are now looking worse for wear. If garden wildlife has eaten the seeds, and you don’t want structure in your garden over the winter months, cut down the plant and mulch.

Any plants that aren’t frost hardy, and can’t be lifted for storage, give them a heavy mulch around the base. Don’t cover over the plant, as the moisture can cause the plant to rot. Failing that, protect the plant with horticultural fleece.

Tulip bulbs on the ground, ready for planting in autumnTulip bulbs

Whether it’s swathes of tulips, container-grown, or individual flowers dotted around your garden, now’s the time to plant your bulbs. Temperatures are dropping daily, so there’s no longer a threat of tulip fire infection. Avoid bulbs that show signs of decay, mould or damage, and plant three times to the depth of the bulb. If you’re planting into heavy soil add grit for drainage, as bulbs sat in water will rot. You may want to cover the area with netting, to prevent mice and squirrels digging them up.

Roses

Most plants and shrubs are dormant over the winter months, so this is an ideal time to move and plant new roses. Bare root varieties tend to be cheaper than potted plants and the choice is endless. Once planted, water in and mulch thoroughly to prevent frost from damaging the roots. If you already have established roses, make sure any fallen leaves are burnt or removed from the site, as these may have suffered blackspot and could infect your plant next year.

Dahlias

Depending where you are in the UK, you may have already had your first frost. If not, it’s only a matter of time. Therefore, ensure your dahlia tubers are dug up and stored. This also applies to cannas. Dahlias can be stored in boxes filled with scrunched paper and placed somewhere cool and dark. If this isn’t an option, place tubers in a pot of damp compost and kept somewhere cool.

Hedges

Time to plant hedgerows and conifers. Before planting, ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil. With clay soil, you may also want to add grit for drainage. Depending on the hedge it may need a support and tying in, just until it establishes itself. Water in well and mulch.

Hard-wood cuttings

It’s not too late to take hard-wood cuttings, Plants include buddleia, vines and cornus. Make a sharp cut just beneath a bud and an angled cut across the top of the cutting. The angle ensures moisture runs off and doesn’t rot the cutting. Your cutting should be the length and width of a pencil. Place the straight end into a pot of compost, up to its middle. Try to use a square pot and place cuttings in each corner, any heat will bounce off the corners of the pot and onto the cutting. Ensure the compost is damp, and place in a cold frame and greenhouse.

A compost bin full of autumn leaves to provide leaf mulchLeaf mulch

There are plenty of fallen leaves to clear away, but don’t get rid of them. Create a pen with chicken wire and four wooden stakes. Then place the collected leaves within the wired square and leave for up to twelve months. This will breakdown into a rich mulch, which can then be used for your garden. If you don’t have the space for a pen, either an old plastic bin or garden bags will do. Create several holes, so moisture can drain away and the airflow will help the bacteria breakdown the leaf matter. Store them out of the way, where they won’t be disturbed.

Lawn

Lawns won’t need to be mowed now until next spring. However, with leaves and debris falling, you need to ensure you keep lawns clear. This will prevent pests taking shelter, and there’s no chance of damaging your lawn with the ‘browning off’ effect. Finally, if you wake to frosts, try to keep off the lawn, as you could potentially damage it.

Maintenance

With less to do on allotments and in gardens, you can switch your attention to carrying out repairs and maintenance on garden tools. From secateurs to shears, your tools should be cleaned and sharpened. Ensure your lawnmower has been cleaned, checked, and drained of fuel.

Pots and seed trays will also need cleaning – warm soapy water will do – and stored. Try not to buy new plastic pots to reduce waste and use what you’ve got, or why not make your pots? There are kits available for making biodegradable plant pots that will add a personal touch to your plant growing next season.

If you’re leaving stone or terracotta pots outside over winter, make sure they’re standing on clay feet or bricks. Otherwise a ground frost can damage and cause pots to crack. Being off the ground will also help potted plants as it drains off excess water.

Pots can be expensive, so protect them as best you can by grouping them all together in the sunniest part of the garden. You could also try wrapping them in bubble wrap.

A wooden bird feeder in the shape of a house against an autumn woodland backgroundWildlife

If you haven’t done so yet, fill your bird feeders. Ensure they’ve been thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water and rinsed.

Put out fresh water for the birds, but try to ensure it doesn’t ice over.

You can also consider building insect hotels. Leave small piles of wood in corners of your garden to allow wildlife somewhere to rest over winter.

On the veg patch

Broad beans

If you’re hoping for an early crop of broad beans next year, sow now. Ensure all weeds are removed and add plenty of organic matter. Plant seeds in double rows, to the depth of two inches and nine inches apart. Water in well and cover over with either a cloche or horticultural fleece. Not only will the seeds benefit from the extra warmth, but they’ll be protected from birds and vermin.

Certain crops benefit from a good frost, turning their starches into sugars. Parsnips, swede, and Brussels sprouts will be tastier after a cold spell. If you are lifting these crops on a cold day, make sure you do it with a fork, carefully prising them from the hardened soil.

Spring cabbages

If you sowed cabbage seed weeks ago, they should now be healthy young plants ready for planting out. Brassicas are hungry plants, so ensure the bed has been well cultivated with plenty of organic matter dug in.

Plant your plants deep, just below the first set of leaves, to prevent damage from ‘wind rock’. Water in well and mulch. You may also want to protect your plants with horticultural fleece or cloches.

Leafy potato tubers growing in a green grow bagChristmas potatoes

If you’re growing spuds for the big day, then check them regularly. If they’re in grow bags or sacks, try to keep them somewhere, bright, warm and protected. As the stems gather height, ensure you earth them up. Not only will this encourage further tubers, but it will protect them from the chill. Finally, with dampness in the air and fluctuating temperatures, keep an eye out for blight.

Glue bands

Pests will be looking for somewhere to rest up over the next few months, laying eggs and eating tender shoots which can have a devastating effect on fruit trees. Try wrapping glue bands around the trunk base of your apple, pear, cherry and plum trees to stop pests, such as winter moth caterpillars, climbing the trees to lay their eggs.

Other Jobs

  • Disconnect garden hoses and protect garden taps as frozen water can burst pipes.
  • Bring inside potted up herbs.
  • Regularly check stored fruit, onions, squashes and potatoes for rot. Disregard any that have been spoilt.
  • As gardens die-back, you get a real sense of the blueprint of your garden. So, if you’re thinking of doing structural work, such as laying a new path or building a fence, now’s the time to do it.
  • If you’re planning a bonfire, check the woodpile first for any hidden wildlife.

4 Super Hardy Salad Leaves to Grow in Winter

October 8th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

4 Super Hardy Salad Leaves to Grow in Winter. Lamb's lettuce, or corn salad, growing in rows in soil.

Salads may be the epitome of sunny summer days, but there’s a lesser-known band of salad leaves full of interesting flavours and textures that will faithfully offer fresh pickings for winter. Able to withstand frost and standing firm through the grim weather, they are hardy souls most definitely worth growing. Read on or watch the video to discover four of the very best super-hardy winter salad leaves.

Why Grow Winter Salad Leaves?

Fresh leaves in the depths of winter are a real treat. While they won’t give masses of pickings, what they do produce is truly appreciated. Then as the weather warms up in spring, harvests come thick and fast – at a time when there’s very little else to pick.

Sow winter salad leaves in late summer or early autumn so they go into winter at just the right size – big enough to survive the chill but not so big that lush growth is clobbered by hard frosts.

Most winter salad leaves can grow outside in mild or temperate climates, but you’ll get more leaves if you can offer some protection from the weather, for example by using a hoop house or by growing salads in a greenhouse or tunnel.

What to Grow

Here’s our pick of the hardiest and most reliable winter salads:

1. Mache, aka Lamb’s Lettuce or Corn Salad

Mache, which also goes by the names lamb’s lettuce or corn salad, produces tender leaves with a smooth texture. This is the hardiest salad leaf of our quartet and grows very well outdoors.

2. Land Cress

Land cress, sometimes known as American cress, has rich, dark leaves that taste similar to watercress. It’s one of the quickest winter salad crops, giving leaves to pick as soon as eight weeks from sowing.A close up of winter purslane salad leaves with little white flowers, AKA miner's lettuce or claytonia

3. Claytonia, aka Miner’s Lettuce or Winter Purslane

Claytonia, also called miner’s lettuce or winter purslane, grows soft, succulent leaves and, come spring, tiny white flowers that also make for good eating. Use it in salads or cook it as an alternative to spinach.

4. Watercress

You don’t need running water to grow watercress, so long as you can ensure the soil it’s growing in is consistently damp, which shouldn’t be too difficult in winter! The mildly peppery leaves of watercress make it salad royalty.

Direct Sowing Winter Salads

Winter salad leaves are well suited to sowing direct into ground recently vacated by summer crops. Remove any weeds first, as they might smother your plants, then rake the soil to a fine tilth.

Mark out drills according to the instructions on the seed packet. Depending on what you’re sowing, rows will be spaced between 9-12 inches (22-30cm) apart. Sow the seeds very thinly, then water them. Once they’re up, thin the seedlings in stages until plants are about 6-8 inches (15-20cm) apart within the row.

Sowing Winter Salads into Plug Trays

Winter salad leaves are also prime candidates for starting off in plug trays. At sowing time the ground is often still occupied by summer crops, but sow into plug trays and your salad leaves may be started off away from the vegetable garden, giving earlier crops a chance to finish. Plug trays also reduce the risk of slug damage at the vulnerable seedling stage and produce sturdy young plants able to outcompete weeds.

Fill trays with general-purpose potting soil then firm it in, adding a little more if needed. Firming in the potting soil creates small depressions in each of the plugs, which are ideal for sowing into. Drop about two seeds into each plug. Some seeds like claytonia are tiny, so don’t worry if you end up with more – you can always thin out the seedlings after they’ve germinated to leave just the strongest in each plug.

Once you’re done sowing, cover the seeds with a very thin layer of more potting soil, then label your tray so you don’t forget what you’ve sown – essential if you’re sowing more than one type of plant in a tray! Water the tray with a gentle spray, or place plugs into trays of water to soak it up from below. Remove trays from the water once they’re ready.

Grow the seedlings on until the roots have filled their plugs, when it’s time to plant them. If the ground is still occupied by other crops, you can re-pot into bigger pots or plug trays, buying you another week or two before planting outside.

A close up of watercress salad leaves with drops of water on the leaves, taken from abovePlanting Winter Salads

Set your winter salad leaves out at the recommended spacing. Planting in a block, so plants are the same distance apart in both directions, is perhaps easiest. Allow 7 inches (17cm) both ways for mache, 8 inches (20cm) for claytonia, and 9 inches (22cm) for land cress and watercress. Dig holes into prepared soil, enriched with organic matter such as compost if it’s likely to have needed a boost after summer, then pop the young plants in. Fill the soil back around them, firm in and water.

Wonderful Watercress

Watercress may be grown like any other winter salad, but a handy alternative is to sow the tiny seeds into containers of potting soil.

Scatter seeds thinly across the surface, then cover with a very fine layer of more potting soil. Containers must be kept moist at all times or the seedlings will quickly die. Once stems have reached about 4in (10cm) high, you an begin harvesting either individual leaves or clusters of stems.

Caring for Winter Salads

Weeds and slugs are the enemies of winter salads – keep on top of both. Slug traps filled with beer to attract them work to a point, but keeping growing areas clear of weeds and debris, while planting at the correct spacing, should do a lot to deter slugs.

How to Harvest Winter Salads

Harvest leaves once plants have formed mounded clumps. Cut stems with a sharp knife, taking care to leave the lowest leaves and those towards the centre untouched so they can continue to grow. As growth picks up in spring, so do the harvests and how much you can remove from plants on each occasion.

By mid-spring plants will be flowering. Young flower stalks may be eaten but in time they will become tough. At this point it’s time to dig up and remove winter salad crops to make way for your summer staples.

If you thought winter meant time to retire the vegetable garden till spring, think again. Winter salad leaves will keep the fresh pickings coming. Are you growing some of these sensational salad crops this winter? What are you growing and how? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

December Gardening Advice

December 3rd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

start-planning-your-2019-garden-now-its-never-too-early-to-plan-ahead

The smell of pine, the taste of mulled wine, and the promise of a large gentleman in a red suit bearing gifts, means the festive season is once again upon us. Hard to think that we’re about to wave goodbye to another year. But what a year! The sun shined, the flowers bloomed and the crops flourished.

So, while we make merry with friends and family, it’s also the ideal time to find a quiet little nook, away from the usual television repeats, to reflect on this year in the garden and on the allotment. Think about your successes and failures, and how to improve things next year.

Browse through the seed catalogues, write your ‘wish lists’, and draw your blueprint for 2019. It’s never too early to plan ahead. Before you know it, the sun will be shining and the flowers blossoming.

In the flower garden

Plant up

Why not greet the festive season with an array of outdoor colour? Pansies, cyclamen and winter heathers can be bought in most nurseries, or ordered online. Plant up in containers, pots or hanging baskets, then place them around your front door and path to make a warm welcome for any guest or carol singer this season.

Prune

This is the time to prune wisteria. Cut back any growing side shoots to two or three buds, and tie-in. You might also need to improve the support structure of the plant for next spring. You should also prune and tie-in climbing roses. Any established stems shouldn’t be cutback to more than two thirds. Remove fallen leaves from site, as they could be harbouring blackspot, and that will only spread come spring.

Greenhouse

If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as plants growing inside will need all the warmth and light they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

Wreath

You can also save the pennies by making your own festive wreath. A homemade wreath looks great on a front door, all you need is a little patience and imagination. With secateurs, scissors, wire and string as your tools, take a foamed floral-ring as your foundation and soak it in a bucket of water for a few minutes before plugging it with cuttings. There’s plenty of stunning foliage and plants to use at this time of year, including holly, mistletoe, ivy, rosehips and pine cones. Any leftover cuttings can decorate a mantle or make a table display.

Structure

Now’s a great time to make repairs or build new garden structures. Whether it’s fences panels, pergolas, sheds or trellises, with plants pruned or tied back, you can see clearly where to install new structures, or make good on damaged ones. Once you’ve completed the structure, treat it with a wood preservative or give it a coat of paint.

Think about how you want your garden to look next year, and make the changes now. Lift, divide, and re-plant perennials and hedging. Inspect any established hedging for damage or disease, and remove.

Add new structure by introducing bare-root roses and hedging. But remember, plant in well, and give roses a thick mulch to protect them from winter weather.

Indoor sowing

If there isn’t a heat supply in your greenhouse or polytunnel, a warm conservatory or a well-lit window ledge might be the solution. Using a seed tray, seed compost and horticulture grit, you may want to think about sowing cyclamen or geranium. Ensure the seed is sparingly spread. Cover over lightly with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite and place in a tray semi-filled with water. This allows the water to seep into the soil from the bottom up, without disturbing the seeds.

On the veg patch

Leeks, carrots and parsnips

If you’ve been growing leeks, carrots or parsnips and hoping to enjoy them alongside your turkey on the big day, try to harvest them when the ground is not frozen, ideally in the afternoon. Once lifted they can be heeled in gently, and left until Christmas morning, or when you’re ready to use them.

Brussels sprouts

By now, your brussels sprouts should be swelling up nicely. To keep the plants at their best, remove the yellowing lower leaves. As the top of the plant is now a lot heavier, ensure they are staked in well, otherwise they make suffer wind rock, which could harm or kill the plant.

Structure

With most crops now lifted, the exposed view will reveal the structure of your allotment or kitchen garden. If you’re thinking of adding plots, paths or borders, now’s the time to carry out these tasks.

Christmas potatoes

After months of growing and topping up the soil, the big day is nearly here, and so are your spuds. Whether they’re in grow bags or sacks, tip them out into an empty wheelbarrow, and search through the soil for your golden treasure. With all potatoes removed, the leftover soil can be tipped into veg beds, and worked in.

Beans

If you want a bumper harvest of beans next year, select your plot and dig a trench. Over a period of time, fill the area with festive kitchen food waste (not meat or dairy). Once filled, mark the area, and backfill with soil. This will rot down, providing a rich growing bed for your young legume plants next season.

Fruits trees

Gooseberries, raspberries and currants will make a welcome addition to your garden or veg plot. Before planting bare-root plants, soak the roots in a bucket of water for half an hour. Dig the hole, adding compost (and grit if the soil is heavy) and plant in well. Water and mulch. If you’ve planted large plants, or plants that will take on vigorous growth in the spring, consider adding a support structure to the growing area.

Blueberries are another great plant to grow. When planting, remember these will need to be grown in ericaceous soil (which is acidic), and only water with rainwater.

If you have a fig tree, then wrap it in horticultural fleece. The colder weather could potentially damage the end branches of the tree, and hamper next season’s growth.

For apple and pear trees, prune now whilst they are dormant, removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches.

Other Jobs

Christmas is not just about the tree – hyacinths, indoor cyclamen and poinsettias can all join the party. If you haven’t had the opportunity to grow them from bulbs, they can easily be bought from nurseries or online.

As the weather becomes bitter, move indoor plants from draughty and open door areas. Keep away from radiators and sun spots. Check foliage regularly for mildew, yellowing or disease.

Continue to look after the garden wildlife. Ensure there is a fresh water supply for birds, and break up frozen water. Keep bird feeders and tables topped up.

Install a compost bin in your garden or allotment, or remember to turn over the contents of any established bins.

How to Prepare Your Garden Against Frost

November 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Temperatures have noticeably dropped over the past few weeks. The garden has gotten close to freezing on a number of occasions, so it’s safe to say the first frosts of winter will be with us any minute. Preparing the garden for the colder months ahead is a wise move to keep overwintering plants and your hard-working soil happy.

Read on or watch the video to discover simple, cost-effective ways to do just that.

Mulch Bare Soil

Leaving soil exposed risks depleting the beneficial life contained within it. Keep the likes of worms, bugs and fungi happy by laying organic matter over the surface before it gets too cold. A layer of  material such as well-rotted compost or manure, spread 1-2in (3-5cm) deep is thick enough to keep soil life fed while nourishing the soil itself, yet thin enough to enable hard frosts to penetrate the soil below, thereby helping to control overwintering pests.

Row Covers at the Ready

Keep row covers or horticultural fleece at the ready.

garden-fleece-and-hoops-are-great-for-protecting-crops-during-colder-months

Store it somewhere dry, ideally neatly rolled up and off the ground out of the way of vermin such as mice.

Dirty polythene covers should be washed down then dried so they’re ready to deploy.

When frost threatens, or if you simply want to extend your cropping period, the row covers can quickly be put into position, held down at the sides with stones, bricks or staples.

Homemade Protection

Don’t forget the many homemade options for cold weather protection. Clear plastic bottles, cut in half, are great for slipping over individual small plants, either outside or as an added layer of warmth inside the greenhouse.

Cold frames can be costly but it’s very easy to make your own. For example, one can be made by securing a rigid piece of polycarbonate onto a simple wooden frame, with hinges at the back to allow for the lid to be opened and closed – very simple, but very effective.

plastic-bottles-are-a-cheap-easy-solution-for-crop-protection-of-individual-plants

Temporary Hoop Houses

Row covers may also be secured onto homemade hoops, making a handy hoop house. A way of achieving this is by using lengths of PVC water pipe secured onto lengths of rebar hammered into the ground and connected at the top by a central ridge of piping. It’s an effective way to keep winter hardy salads and vegetables safe from harsh weather.

 

Protecting Root Crops

Many root crops such as carrots and beetroot can be left in the ground until they’re needed. Some, like parsnips, actively improve with frost, becoming more tender and sweeter.

Lay a mulch of compost, straw, dried leaves or leaf mould about 6 inches (15cm) thick to help keep frosts at bay, but if the ground is likely to freeze solid for weeks on end, dig up your root crops to store them somewhere cool, dry and frost-free.

Protect Containers

In winter the biggest threat to containerised plants like herbs is wet. Persistently wet potting soil can freeze, turning lethal in cold weather. Make sure excess moisture can drain away by lifting up containers onto pot feet. You can use elegant purpose-sold pot feet, or just improvise with stones, for example.

Delicate containers can also crack if potting soil freezes solid and expands. You can stop this happening by wrapping pots up in bubble wrap, burlap or hessian, or look for pots sold as frost-resistant. Sensitive plants and pots can also be moved somewhere more sheltered – against the house for instance, or into a greenhouse.

Garden-fleece-is-great-for-wrapping-up-frost-sensitive-plants-to-protect-and-keep-them-warm

Warmer Greenhouse

Inside a greenhouse it makes more sense to protect individual plants rather than trying to heat up the entire structure. Wrap frost-sensitive plants up in row covers or fleece, or section off an area of the greenhouse and heat this smaller space instead.

Old polystyrene fish boxes are great for insulating smaller plants like winter salad leaves against the worst of the cold. Most already include drainage slots at the corners, so you can fill them with potting soil and plant directly – or just drop trays and pots into the boxes for a snug fit. Cover with fabric or plastic overnight for extra temporary protection on extra-cold nights.

Know Your Frost Date

Knowing when to expect your first frost is important for planning your frost protection. The GrowVeg Garden Planner uses your precise location to anticipate the date when this is likely to occur, so you’re pre-warned and can take action to winter-proof your plot. Check the calender to find your expected first frost date, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather forecast too.

Help your plants stay warmer or use the frosts to your advantage. Either way, being prepared will help you to successfully work with winter.

If you have any tips or tricks for getting your garden winter-ready, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.