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As the winter weather approaches, most gardening jobs will focus on protecting plants from the chillier temperatures. Though many plants and vegetables can be damaged by frost, preparing in advance can be the key to ensuring your garden remains in good condition come spring.
Although the late autumn weather can remain mild in temperature, gardeners are advised to put protective measures in place before the first frost arrives.
What protective measures should you consider putting in place now to protect your garden this winter?
Keep an eye on weather forecasts
Planning is one of the most important factors in protecting your horticultural haven from the sudden onset of frost.
Having a better idea of when the temperature is set to drop will ensure you get all of your winter preparation done before the frost arrives.
Staying on top of temperature drops is one way to predict when frost will arrive, however, gardening experts from Farmer’s Almanac also recommend paying attention to moisture levels.
They state: “Moisture determines whether frost will nip your plants. Condensation warms and evaporation cools.
“When moisture in the air condenses on plants and soil, heat is produced, sometimes raising the temperature enough to save the plants.
“On the other hand, if the air is dry, moisture in the soil will evaporate, removing some heat.”
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Mulch low plantings
During the winter months, any ground that is left exposed can be heavily impacted by a change in temperature.
This fluctuation in temperatures can create movement, which may lead to small or shallow-rooted plants becoming exposed to frost.
Applying the right mulch to your plants in winter can help to maintain a steady soil temperature and shield low plantings from freezing weather. That’s because winter mulch acts as an insulating blanket between the soil and the air.
Mulch can include, but is not limited to, straw or leaf mould.
This can then be removed once the danger of frost has passed.
The BBC recommends putting mulch in place in the autumn.
It states: “In the autumn, spread a ring of mulch around newly planted trees, shrubs or herbaceous perennials.
“In early winter, tender plants like Verbena bonariensis or dahlias will benefit from a thick mulch.”
Before mulching, ensure the site is clear of weeds and the soil is moist.
Protect your soil
Looking after your soil is key to ensuring the plants growing within survive the winter months.
Farmer’s Almanac advises keeping “soil covered to protect beneficial soil life such as worms, bugs and fungi happy”.
Before the temperature drastically drops, ensure you add a thick layer of organic matter to the surface.
This will keep soil life fed and will protect the soil from erosion.
According to the Soil Association, pulling weeds during the winter could actually do more harm than good, so it is best to leave them.
The experts state: “Dandelions, bittercress, chickweeds, and other winter weeds are used as natural winter cover.
“They protect soil from erosion and improve its drainage.”
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Make cold frames
Permanent or temporary cold frames are another way to protect your plants from the onset of frost.
Cold frames can be purchased or you can make them yourself using leftover planks of woods, any spare bricks you may have, a plastic sheet or a glass pane.
You can use your cold frame in winter to prevent alpines from rotting by shielding them from the rain and snow.
Fresh annuals can also be overwintered using a cold frame, keeping them safe until the spring sunshine arrives.
For extra protection, line your cold frame with bubble wrap for insulation.
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