Garden Protection - Preventing Winter Damage

4 January 2018


Preventing winter damage is an important part of gardening. If you don’t put any protective measures in place you will leave your garden at the mercy of the cold, wet and windy weather. Even hardy plants need protecting from the winter, and evergreen plants and pot plants need particular attention. 

This advise (credited by the RHS) should see to it that your treasured gardens that you have worked hard on all year round will survive whatever the rest of our winter throws at them!

1. Frost Protection: This should be one of the first prevention methods you set up, preferably in autumn, but if you haven't yet then it is better late than never! Protective wrappings made of fleece, hessian, bracken, straw or polystyrene can be used to insulate plants.

2. Smart Cultivation: Cultivation practices are also very important in giving you a long-term solution to possible winter damage. It will give you more efficient yields season after season and help you to save time and money. The following tips will help you to improve your garden protection:

  • Feeding – Make sure you avoid nitrogen-rich fertilisers in the winter as these can cause sappy growth.
  • Soil cover – Without soil cover, like green manures, leaching of nutrients can occur.
  • Mulching – This will help you to avoid soil erosion and compaction that can occur after heavy rain.
  • Plant in a sheltered spot – It’s important to remember that your garden has its own microclimate. Some areas will be warmer than others, some will be wetter. Make sure you choose plants for each area carefully.
  • Keep early flowering plants away from morning sun – Plants such as Magnolias and Camellias need to be kept away from morning sun in the winter because rapid thawing can lead to bud drop.
  • Containers – These need to be kept in dry, sheltered locations and ideally grouped together.

3. Checking Structures: Before the harsh weather hits, you should carry out another thorough check of your garden structures and replace any damaged panels, posts and fences. Fitting solid fences with wind-permeable ones is a great way of avoiding damage caused by gusting, turbulence and shaking. Windbreaks also help to protect plants in open spaces. These can take the shape of hurdles, netting or stout posts which are great short-term solutions. Planting a hedge can be a better long-term option.

4. Improve Drainage: Wet soil can be a big danger to young or shallow-rooted trees as it makes them more likely to uproot during strong winds. Digging organic matter into your soil will help to improve the drainage. It’s also a good idea to build raised beds and keep control of the soil within the beds, allowing them to drain better. If you have the time and budget you can install porous pipes.

5. Always Shake Off Excess Snow: If we experience a heavy fall of snow this winter there is a danger of branches breaking. Shake off excess snow as it starts to build up on branches, and prune hedges to taper at the top to minimise snow damage.

6. Look After Your Lawn: The first step towards keeping a healthy lawn throughout the winter is to rake the leaves off whenever you get the chance. If leaves are left on the lawn they can block out light and prevent moisture from getting to the grass. Grass still grows at temperatures above 5oC so if you're finding you still need to mow the lawn during these milder winter temperatures, make sure you are doing so on a higher cut to lower the stress on the turf. Top tip: don’t walk on your lawn when it is frosty, this can damage the grass and leave brown footprint-shaped marks.

7. Plan Ahead: Successful gardening is all about preparation and by having a clear plan in mind you can get ahead of the game. Protecting your garden in the winter will ensure that it’s ready to blossom come the spring and summer. We're looking forward to another exciting year in the great outdoors!