Jumping Jack Frost it’s cold outside! You may be worried for your tender plants at this time of year, but never fear, a few simple tricks will keep them in tip top condition throughout the cold snap and beyond.
Plants in pots on your patio are vulnerable to frost because their large surface area makes their soil more prone to freezing than that in the ground.
As water freezes, it expands, which can damage delicate roots, especially if the pot cracks and exposes roots directly to the cold.
This puts all pot plants at risk of damage. Unglazed terracotta pots are especially prone to cracking but don’t worry – the steps you take to protect your plants will also protect prize pots from the cold. Fortunately, container-grown plants are very easy to protect.
Your best defence is to move them to a sheltered spot beneath the eaves of the house or against a fence or wall. Heat that radiates from the house and the reduced air flow that comes from being against a surface will protect them from the most severe cold.
Wrapping pots with leftover bubble wrap from Christmas deliveries is also a good plan. This provides an insulating layer to shield roots from the frost.
Just be sure to leave soil and drainage holes exposed so that the plant can still be watered.
Standing containers on pot feet or wine corks (about four per pot) will also increase drainage and stop them becoming water-logged.
This makes pots less likely to crack since there isn’t as much water in the pot to freeze.
Be sure to place materials carefully so that they are not blocking drainage holes or this will undo some of your good work! Since cold air sinks, lifting pots off the ground also takes them away from the coldest air, which has a protective effect.
Plants with shallow root systems, like Heuchera and strawberries, are prone to frost heave – where repeated freezing and thawing of groundwater pushes plant roots out of the ground. Moisture-retentive soils, like heavy clay, may be worse for this since there is more water present to cause issues.
An easy way to protect plants from frost heave is by applying a thick layer of mulch to the soil. This acts as a protective barrier between the soil and cold air, insulating roots and protecting plants from temperature fluctuations.
Biodegradable mulches include bark chippings, straw and compost.
These will not only protect plants from frost but also improve the soil as they break down. Alternatively non-bio-degradable mulches, like slate chips, pebbles and decorative aggregates, offer a smart-looking layer of frost protection.
To lay a mulch, weed the area when the ground is not frozen – weeds will be more difficult to remove from frozen ground or from beneath a mulch once it’s laid. Then simply spread your chosen material with a trowel or spade around sensitive plants until you have a layer that measures five to seven centimetres thick.
Plants from warmer climes, like tree ferns and outdoor palms, as well as Meditterranean shrubs like Pittosporum tobira (Japanese pittosporum), Trachelospermum (star jasmine) and Callistemon (bottlebrush) tend to appreciate frost protection over winter.
For palms and ferns, it is most important to protect their central growing point. Pack straw, shredded paper or dry leaves around the crown and wrap with horticultural fleece secured with garden twine.
In colder areas – such as northern England and Scotland – wrapping the entire foliage canopy three or four times around with fleece as well is usually best.
The lower stems of tender climbers and shrubs that are hardy down to only zero degrees (H3 category) are best packed with insulating materials and wound round with fleece, with wrapping extended to all foliage for shrubs.
It’s best to remove wrapping during periods of mild weather to prevent rotting. Check your plant’s hardiness on plant labels or via the RHS online plant finder.
Gifts for the gardener in your life
Give the gift of a year’s membership to the RHS, and receive a free £15 voucher when you purchase RHS Gift Membership at any one of the four RHS Gardens! For just £61, your loved ones will enjoy unlimited days out at the four stunning RHS Gardens, free entry to more than 200 RHS Partner Gardens, exclusive access to the 2019 RHS Shows and The Garden magazine delivered to their door every month. The offer runs until 24 December and is only available when you visit an RHS Garden, so act fast – it’s a magnificent gift for gardeners of all levels and those who love the outdoors!
Keep your loved one’s hands warm and protected this year with SKYTEC Argon gloves. Their double-insulated liner with foam coating over palms, knuckles and fingers, makes them especially warm for use in cold weather and their hard-wearing material allows the gardener in your life to put them through their paces without missing a beat. Whether they’re planting evergreens for late garden colour or popping winter pansies in their window boxes, give them a pair of these this Christmas and they’ll be reaching for them whatever they’re doing.
Allow your loved one to keep exotic houseplants happy in style this year with this high-sheen, pump action mist sprayer. Available in a choice of glorious finishes from star of Bethlehem silver to contemporary copper and gleaming gold, this beauty will ornament shelves to perfection in between uses. Humidity-loving orchids, palms and peace lilies will not be the only ones full of Christmas cheer at the unveiling of this incredible piece of kit on 25th December.
If you thought on-trend fire pits were out of your price range this Christmas, then think again! This cast iron fire pit is the ideal finishing touch for intimate garden gatherings and weighs in at just £27.99! Use it to toast marshmallows beneath the stars or go all out and rustle up a couple of decent rib-eye steaks in the great outdoors. Its easy portability and tubular legs make it great for use in any garden, however big or small.
Perfect for propagating spring seedlings and growing tropical plants, this miniature indoor greenhouse is also a sight to behold. Formed of two parts of mouth-blown glass, the bottom piece serves as a minimalist, see-through plant pot, while the top part doubles as a watering can with pouring spout and a self-regulating cloche that allows air to pass in and out as required. A wonderfully thoughtful gift for the avid indoor grower!
Dig-up and store any
homegrown root vegetables
in time for delicious Christmas dinners—
otherwise they may get stuck
in the frozen ground until
the spring thaw!
How can I protect my shed roof in winter?
A leaky shed roof in winter can be a real nuisance so here are a few things you can do. Cut away branches that hang over the roof as strong winds could cause them to fall and cause damage. Check felt for damage and replace if necessary. Apply an all-weather roof coat to keep it going through frost and snow.
When should I prune my overgrown acer?
Prune acers between the months of November and January when they are dormant and most of the plant’s energy is focused in the roots, rather than the branches. This will prevent them from bleeding sap and keep your tree in the best health.