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Prepare your garden for colder months

By Waverly Atkinson

While your garden may be frequented the most during summer months, there’s no need to abandon your floral oasis when the weather starts to turn. Despite the colder temperatures and unpredictable downpours, it’s still easy to keep your garden looking great – here’s how.

Prepare your perennials for the cold  

Perennials (plants that live longer than two years) are designed to grow back year after year, even when harsh winters strike. However, it’s during the colder months that many perennials become dormant, and it’s important to prepare for this stage in order to maintain health and strength.

Dividing overcrowded perennials is an easy way to avoid issues and should be done during the autumn months, just before they start to become inactive in growth. Examples of such perennials include – but are not limited to – lily of the valley, sedum, verbena and geranium.

To do this, use a small gardening fork to gently lift the plant from the soil to limit root damage. Depending on the size of root mass, you may need to use the fork to break it up further to allow for easier division. From here, make sure you divide and replant as quickly as possible to encourage strong, future growth and flowering.

Removing wilted leaves and cutting back herbaceous perennials during late autumn is a great way to restore tidiness to your garden ready for the winter months. It also helps promote strong growth after the colder season, while protecting against pests and disease during winter. However, cutting back too much can remove potential winter interest in the form of height and shadowing, so do bear this in mind.

Removing wilted leaves and cutting back herbaceous perennials during autumn is a great way to restore tidiness to your garden ready for winter.

Remove greenhouse shading

Plants that require more warmth and light are at risk of damage in winter – especially those in greenhouses. Plants such as tomatoes and lettuce need ample sunlight to survive and thrive, making winter a tough time for harvest.

However, a little scrubbing to your greenhouse glass panels can help maximise winter sunlight and encourage healthy growing. Simply wash away any dirt or grime to bring up sparkling clean panels.

Since you’re already cleaning the exterior, use this opportunity to tidy the inside of your greenhouse too. Remove overhanging leaves and stems, sweep the floor and wash out pots and seed trays in preparation for the summer months.

Mulch the garden

Mulching refers to the act of covering bare soil with garden leftovers such as leaves, hay or manure. In summer, this is done to conserve water and suppress water, while mulching in winter helps to keep the ground frozen.

But why would you want the ground to remain cold? Shouldn’t the plants be kept warm instead? Simply put, no. While mulching helps protect plants against thawing, the main idea behind it in winter is to keep the ground frozen to shield it from the sun. When soil is exposed to sun, it expands and contracts, pushing plants out of the ground. It also keeps the plant in dormancy, preventing it from triggering new growth during the warmer spells. Premature growth will simply result in winter dieback.

Therefore, in order to keep the ground frozen, keep watering your beds right up until the colder weather sets in.

While mulching helps protect plants against thawing, the main idea behind mulching in the winter is to keep the ground frozen to shield it from the sun.

Protect delicate plants

To protect your garden features from wind damage, surround them in burlap barriers. Hammer a few stakes in the ground and wrap burlap around before securing. These can be removed after the colder months and allow you to enjoy your precious plants all year round.

Look after outdoor furnishings

As your gardening tools may not be used as much during the winter months, it’s important to ensure they are clean and in good condition before storing away.

Outdoor cushions and seat covers should be stored in plastic boxes in dry places, to protect against mould and damp. An indoor loft is perfect for this purpose. Similarly, plastic tables are prone to algae and discoloration if left outside during the wetter months. If you have room in your shed or garage, stack them neatly and cover in tarpaulin to keep them looking as good as new ready for warmer weather use.

In regards to tools, wash and dry thoroughly to prevent rust, and sharpen shears and secateurs to ensure they’re ready for use once winter dissipates. The same can be said for your lawnmower – take it in for a service to make sure it’s in the best condition before being stored away for a few months.

Keeping your outdoor areas clean and protected during the colder months is the best way to ensure you’ve got the best start ready for the sunshine.

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