Winter is coming. Protect the garden!

With the weather turning colder by the day and the winds picking up speed, there are a few nifty thrifty ways you can protect your garden this winter from harsh frosts. This will all depend on what you grow in your own garden and what will/ or won't, need help.

So now is a great time to wrap up warm, grab a coffee and go for a stroll around the garden to take note of what needs to be cut back, dug up, moved or wrapped up.

Knowing what to do.

There are two main categories worth knowing about in your garden as the basic home grown gardener.

  • Tender plants

  • Hardy plants.

A plants 'hardiness" is defined by its ability to withstand frost. You might think they would just put this on the label. If only life were that simple hey! Some may label a plant like this (and they are gems if they do) but usually you will have just a code on the label. So let me try to break it down for you:

H1A. Heated greenhouse (tropical) 15 to 20C

H1B. Heated greenhouse (Subtropical) 10 to 15C

H1C Heated greenhouse or warm temperate 5 to 10C

H2. Tender (cool or frost free greenhouse) 0 to -5 C

H3. Half hardy (unheated greenhouse or outside mild winter) -5 to -0C

H4. Hardy (average winter) -10 to -5C

H5. Hardy (cold winter) -15 to -10 C

H6. Hardy (very cold winter) -20 to -15 C

H7 Very Hardy -25 to -20 C

So if you have a plant that comes from the tropics - a banana plant, for example, it will need cutting down and wrapping in horticultural fleece to protect it, or to be brought inside. A winter flowering jasmine or honeysuckle on the other hand, can stay outside with no protection. Personally, I treat plants classified as half-hardy or semi-hardy as tender, that way I avoid the risk of them dying.

So what can we use to protect our plants on a budget?

Let's face it, times our TOUGH! We are more than ever having to think outside the box as to what we can use in the garden while saving money. So here are some tips:

1. Use a plastic bottle as a cloche over young plants.

Rescue some clear plastic bottles from the recyclinng bin, clean them out and cut them in half. Leave the lid off so water can easily fall down to the plant and air can circulate. To stop them blowing away either use a small bamboo cane through the centre or push them deeper into the ground. The clearer the bottle is, the better sunlight can get in and

warm the plant inside. Likewise you can use the base of the plastic bottles as well, but drill holes for rainwater at the top. If you have any glass jars from jams or other preservatives left over and you are not using them for storing your own produce, these act as an even stronger mini greenhouse for your plants, though you may need to lift them once a week to help air to the plants.

2. Hoop Houses

Hoop houses are my absolute favourite, all you need is some blue water piping and some thick clear plastic to cover your whole bed. I love them because you can make them as small or as large as you like. Aim for minimum centre height of the hoop for about 2 feet. Then simply later put the cover over the top and pin in place, or lay bricks down to hold the cover security. Hoop houses are great for making a mini polytunnel, or growing winter salads.

3. Cold Frames

You can actually make your own cold frames from old windows (as long as they are intact). Build a small wooden frame the same dimensions as your window and simply place the window over the top as a glass roof. Super simple, super cheap - a great money saving trick!

4. Putting your soil to bed

If you have a bed that is not going to be used over winter, consider "putting it to bed" for

the cold months. This does two things, it weakens the weeds growing below as they cannot reach sunlight which makes them easier to pull up in spring. It also helps the soil to warm up in the late winter months, this will help seedlings in spring to root and grow quicker. But above all, it saves you getting out in the harsh winter weather to tend to an empty space. Win-win!

What about wildlife?

There will be lots of critters looking for homes to make this winter to hide away from the cold. From the compost heap where it stays nice and warm in the centre to piles of leaves left in the corner of a garden. If you can, leave one corner of your garden completely untouched until next spring. Throw fallen leaves over there in a pile for critters to nestle in. Place stones securely in a cave-like shape for them to crawl under. Place a small floating ball on the surface of a pond to stop the top layers freezing over. This will also work with any water butts you may have. So take a turn around your garden whilst nursing a warm beverage. See which areas may need a little help or protection. Try as best you can (which is incredibly difficult in this cold weather) not to fall victim to "thought fatigue" where we plan in our minds what we will do, but then never actually put the plan into action. Instead grab the tools you will need and get stuck in. You will love yourself for doing so next year when it all comes back again.

As always friends

Happy Gardening


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