10 tips to help your garden through winter

The weather has definitely changed in the last week in the UK. Some of us are in arctic condition with very little snow and others are knee deep in blizzards! The big freeze heralds a quieter time in the garden, but if you want to protect vulnerable plants and really put the garden to bed here are some tips and ideas to ensure that when your garden wakes up in Spring, it will look as good as possible.

The weather has definitely changed in the last week in the UK. Some of us are in arctic condition with very little snow and others are knee deep in blizzards! The big freeze heralds a quieter time in the garden, but if you want to protect vulnerable plants and really put the garden to bed here are some tips and ideas to ensure that when your garden wakes up in Spring, it will look as good as possible.

To show this wonderful Christmas blanket of snow, send us your snowy pictures of the garden, we will pick the best 10 and publish them right here. Add your name, where you are in the UK and where the picture was taken and of what. Send to: info@francoisemurat.com with the caption Sarah Beeny’s Winter Wonderland!

1. Wrap Up Those Statues!

Seats, statues and other ornaments might need protection. If they are made of stone, these objects will need protection from prolonged wet weather, frost and snow. Frost can cause the stone to split and crumble in time, especially if it already has some cracks – the water gets in and when it freezes it expands. This in time will damage your prized possession even more. So what can you do? Wrap them in fleece or old sacks made of hessian, this will protect them from the worst.

Does anyone have any other tricks or tips to pass on others to protect stone sculpture or ornaments?

2. Protecting Vulnerable Plants

Plants that come from warmer climes such as palm trees, tree ferns, cordylines and agapanthus for example need protection. A good mulch of compost will protect the plants from the worst. Just put a good 3-4 cms of the compost on top of these babies and they will survive. You can also use straw over the top of the plants, laid in a thick carpet.

For the trees, wrap them in fleece to insulate the trunks from the coldest weather. Also ensure the middle of fern crowns and cordylines are tied together and then fleeced all over (or you can use hessian stuffed with straw if that is available).

3. Protect Ponds and Their Wildlife

If you pond is under a tree or collects lots of vegetation from surrounding plants, a net would be ideal. But if you don’t have one, remember that the rotting vegetation builds up gases that are harmful to your fish, so try to collect it on a regular basis and put it on the compost heap.

If the pond has already started to freeze, ensure you have left a plastic ball on the surface, this will ensure the surface has a breathing hole for your fish or put the bottom of a hot pan on the surface every day to melt away the ice. NEVER smash the ice as the shock waves are known to be harmful to fish.

4. Olive Trees, Lemon Trees and other Mediterranean Gorgeousness

These are usually bought in pots in the UK and stay there for most of their life. If that is the case and the pots are not too heavy, move them indoors to a glass house if possible. If the pots are too big and too heavy, often the case for Oliver trees, then wrap them up in several layers of horticultural fleece. I often use straw at the base of the tree and also stuff it through its crown before wrapping it up if it gets very cold. As our winters are getting colder, it would be interesting to see what people do to protect their Mediterranean plants.

Got any nifty tricks or tips to protect your plants from harsh winters? Why don’t you share them with me and I’ll post a whole bunch of them in a follow up blog?

5. Pesky Pigeons!

Even if you live in the suburbs, these little plump birds will decimate a garden when it gets very cold. They adore brassicas, so if you have those in the Potager, fleece, fleece, fleece! Try hanging bird scaring tape above the soil – the wind rattles the tape and pigeons don’t like that sound. I have a friend who uses plastic snakes from a toy shop, she moves them around the ground every few days and she swears by their effectiveness in scaring the pigeons off. Garden centres also sell owls and birds of prey (plastic or stone) and they also help in scaring pigeons away. Again move them around every few days to ensure the pigeons don’t suss you out!

Anyone got any tips to share for scaring pigeons away???

6. Protect Your Bulbs From The Squirrels!

If you have planted bulbs in pots, as sure as day is night, squirrels will dig them up. To ensure your spring display can still come to the rendez-vous, cover the pots with chicken wire and secure well around the rim with string or wire.

In open ground, this is more difficult, but you can lay chicken wire on top of the bulbs and pin down with camping pins into the ground. BUT! Make sure you remember to take the chicken wire away BEFORE you are ready to do your first mow!

7. Leave Seed Heads & Grasses Until February

Many flowers and grasses have seed heads that are invaluable to wildlife especially in very cold weather. By leaving these throughout the winter you help the food chain along and also the arching stems of the grasses they look gorgeous with a blanket of snow over them. A very architectural garden.

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  1. Don't Paint That Shed In Freezing Temperatures**

If your shed, gate or fence needs a re-fresh, hold off until the temperatures are above +5 degrees. Paint does not perform well in low temperatures and below 0 will not adhere to surfaces. So don’t waste money now, just tidy up, repair and prepare, but leave the painting until it’s warmer.

Shepherd’s hut by Plankridge, by kind permission of Alex Johnson, “Shedworking”

9. Don't Dig

Now is not the time to double dig that veg patch – it’s too late. In freezing weather the soil forms clods and these will slowly break down over winter aided by the worms below ground. If you start meddling with this now, by stepping all over it and digging, you will make hard work for yourself and compact the soil – which is never a good thing.

10. Order and Plan That Veg Garden Now

Not so much a tip for winter but more of a plan now, rest easy later suggestion. This time of year, is quieter and once that snow has covered your garden enjoy the beautiful snowy days that we have been having and think about next year.

Plan your Potager now, what seeds to order, the rotation of that garden for the health of your plants and where to place those beautiful new plants you saw at Chelsea or Hampton Court Flowers Shows! Choose slightly different varieties of veg, did some perform better than others? Did some do really well and you loved the taste, texture and look of them?

If you are a novice then this is the perfect time to prepare and plan – no hurry, relaxed research into books and on-line blogs to ensure you make the right choices for the veg you want to grow.

Old hand or novice remember one thing: grow 60% of what you eat several times a week, 30% of what you eat once per week and 10% of the more unusual veg that you eat when in season, such as asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, etc.... That way you will never grow too much of something that you can’t bear to eat more than a few times per month but lots of what you love!

 

Françoise Murat & Associates specialise in interior, garden & landscape design.

For more garden and interior design information visit us at www.francoisemurat.com or follow me on Twitter @FrancoiseM