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How to protect your plot from the cold this winter

23rd January 2019

Defy the cold and keep your crops safe from the season’s cold and windy weather

It’s true that the winter can put us off spending time gardening on our plots, but it’s a good idea to make sure your plants do not die off in the biting wind, watery and often sub-zero temperatures that accompanies it. Wrap up warm, grab that flask and follow our top tips to give your plot the helping hand it needs to fight the cold this winter!

1. Prevent the problem

One of the best methods to protect your plot is to prevent the damage the winter weather can do to it in advance. You can do this by planning for the cold weather before it hits – remember, the weather reporter is your best friend! Soil exposure to freezing temperatures in the veg patch can lead to a loss of nutrients and have a big impact on the chances of growing bumper harvests in the following growing season. You can stop this by sowing green manure directly into the ground in late summer and early autumn such as winter grazing rye or winter tares. This will collect any nutrients the winter rain will wash away and protect the soil surface from compaction. You can also protect your soil and tender plants from over-wintering by covering the veg patch with a thick layer of mulch made from well-rotted manure, compost and straw.

2. Keep warm and toasty
It’s not just us who like to keep warm and toasty in the winter, so do our crops! Tender plants are most at risk from the winter weather but even hardy plants will be damaged in sub-zero temperatures – although winter roots such as parsnips and carrots will benefit from a light to medium frost. Cover crops growing outside with a simple layer of horticultural fleece at the first signs of a cold snap. Make sure to choose the correct fleece thickness for your edibles, however, as a fleece too thin might tear and expose your crops to biting winds and rain, whereas a fleece too thick might not allow in enough light. Low-growing plants can also be protected from the wet and cold weather with glass or plastic cloches. Glass cloches act like little individual greenhouses over your crops which allows you to protect plants all over your garden at the same time. Plastic cloches come in tunnel-like structures and are great for protecting a variety of plant. You can even make your own cloche using fleece stretched over plastic hoops.

3. Get a move on
Move suffering plants to warmer areas of your garden. Potted plants are ideal as they can be easily moved to dry, sheltered areas, for example near a wall or underneath a balcony. Make sure to wrap up your pot with fleece padded out with straw to prevent the roots from freezing. You can also pop them onto pot feet to allow any excess water to drain away. Alternatively, move your potted plants inside your house or into a greenhouse or polytunnel. It’s a good idea to think about which plants will need extra protection ahead of time when you’re potting your plants earlier in the year.

4. Keep safe
Heavy snow and high winds can cause damage to fruit tree branches so make sure to shake snow from plants to prevent branches snapping. Other structures are also at risk so sweep extra snow from your greenhouses and polytunnels.

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