While this winter has been mild by comparison to other seasons, it is still important to be prepared for the eventual cold snap and what it can do to your beloved garden. Helping your garden plants survive below freezing nights can be a tedious affair but it is worth spending the time on safekeeping your plants come spring.
For potted plants, the easiest thing to do is to move them inside if you have the space. Most outdoor potted plants will do fine spending multiple days indoors. If you get into an extended cold snap, consider putting them outside for short periods of time during the warmest part of the day or situate them as close to windows that get direct light.
For outdoor plants, shrubs, and small trees, there is a multi-stepped approach that is almost full proof at keeping your plants alive, even through a long, cold night.
- Water before nightfall. Watering plants as the sun goes down ahead of a freezing night actually helps insulate their roots and prevents them from sustaining irreversible damage.
- Cover them up. Use old sheets or purchase burlap or canvas and gently cover any exposed plants like shrubs and small trees. It is important to be careful about damaging branches and always remove the covers during the day so that the plants can continue to get sun.
- Plant natives. Well this might not help with some plants already in the ground but it is always a good idea to plan your garden using only native plants that have evolved in exactly the types of conditions present where you live. This will mean that they are less likely to sustain weather or climate-related damage like a cold winter night.
If you have a drip irrigation system in your garden, be sure to turn it on at a low rate during overnight freezes to prevent water from settling in the hoses and damaging them. Irrigation systems can be quite expensive and difficult to repair so anything you can do to protect such a valuable asset is important.
Most importantly, just because it’s getting cold outside, don’t forget to enjoy your garden even during the winter months. Make sure to take the time to go outside and appreciate the way that certain perennials look without their foliage, or to discover what types of insects and birds and other critters use your garden as a shelter and a home when the temperatures dip.