What should gardeners do to prepare for a cold snap?
When extreme cold weather hits the country, schools, road, bus and railway networks are often affected.
Slips and falls can also pose a hazard to pedestrians when conditions are icy.
But what about parks? If a cold snap starts, it can be very harmful to the plants.
Here are some basic tasks gardeners can do to make sure they are prepared when cold weather arrives.
Bring any tender plants indoors
While winter is known as the quietest time of the year for gardeners, for Guy Barter, RHS’s chief horticulturist, it’s important to make sure the plants in your garden are well protected to avoid any long-term damage.
“The first thing to do is bring in any tender plants — that could be damaged by a little frost — including begonias, pelargoniums and geraniums, that are still outside and move them to a protected location,” Barter said.
“They should be indoors where it never gets cold. Ideally, the temperature should stay above seven degrees minimum. Below seven degrees, irreversible damage occurs to plant cells.”
“So, if you do this, there’s a good chance your plants will survive the winter without the cost of heating fuel being too high in your home. But it should be a place with a lot of light, like a windowsill.”
Place hardy plants in a greenhouse or on a house wall
Plants need time to gradually harden off and can be severely damaged if a mild autumn is suddenly followed by cold.
“For any reasonably hardy plants — like sagebrush — moving them into an unheated greenhouse if you have one, or putting them against the wall of the house is good enough,” Barter said.
“These plants should be able to withstand the cold down to minus five degrees Celsius. But with a little extra shelter from the greenhouse or the wall of the house, and the fact that they will be drier there, they will survive the cold weather. These are potted plants, of course.”
Cut them again
“There are a lot of plants like dahlias that die in the winter. So it’s best to cut them back to ground level — about six inches so you can find them again in the spring,” Barter said.
“The roots can also be dug up and brought indoors and stored in a shed where they won’t freeze. Or they can be left in the ground, because the soil doesn’t get very wet in the winter. With a pile of mulch, bark chips or wood chips on top; you can buy them from garden centres.”
“They have a lot of buds in the roots that grow back in the spring — very conveniently — and they go dormant in cold weather and can shed them. It’s just important to try to keep the frost out of the mulch pile, if possible.
Collect the papers
“It’s also a good time to collect fallen leaves and sweep them under shrubs where they can rot naturally, or make a pile of them to rot and form some leaves,” Barter continued.
“And then you can also think about doing some winter pruning. These will be tender fruits, such as blackberries and grape vines. You can also prune, shorten, shape or thin out hedges and shrubs that have become too large. As for evergreens, leave them until spring because they need to Their roots have to take care of themselves during the winter, otherwise they will go dormant.
“It’s a great opportunity to see the bare bones of your garden. Some parts may look sparse, so you can take notes to order plants for spring. Or you can order trees and shrubs, such as bare root, which are a little cheaper than potted plants. This is usually a cheaper time for To enthusiastic gardeners – which represents a great convenience.”