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Protecting plants from cold weather

Posted: Monday 29 October 2012
by Adam Pasco

The sudden drop in temperature has got me flustered. There's so much still to do, and the most urgent job is to bring any tender plants under cover.


The rosette of leaves of a succulent echeveria

The sudden drop in temperature has got me flustered. I know it shouldn’t, as every year by Halloween the weather has usually turned significantly colder.

Well, the clocks have gone back, evenings have got darker, and the chilly weather confirms the end of the 2012 growing season. The reason I’m flustered is that there’s so much still to do, and the most urgent job is to bring any tender plants that are still outside under cover before they’re damaged.

I have a lovely selection of tender succulents that have been providing interest around the garden, but this potted collection will suffer in the cold. I need to give the plants a sheltered home under cover.

In past years I’ve sometimes risked keeping a few in my unheated greenhouse over winter, but the cold always gets to them eventually. No, these plants need to come indoors, so I’ll make space for them on the windowsill in our spare bedroom. The aeoniums, sedums and echeverias will enjoy the full light of this south-facing window, with just an occasional watering to keep them going.

My gladioli produced lots of cut flowers during August, and I lifted their fat corms at the weekend. They should store well, nestled cosily in a box of dry, insulating vermiculite to keep them frost free. Hopefully they’ll be in good enough condition to replant next April.

However, I’m going to risk leaving my dahlia tubers in the ground, as the site is quite free draining. Once their tops have been touched by frost and blackened (it won’t be long now), I’ll cut them off at soil level and pile on a deep layer of compost to prevent frost penetrating the ground and reaching the tubers.

This has worked well in the past, although dahlias that are left outdoors are slower to get going in spring than those started off in the warmth.

Thinking back to last year, we had snow in December. Will we get it again? Just in case, I want to make the most of the coming month to prepare the garden and keep on top of autumn jobs. Leaves need to be promptly collected, the lawn given a light trim, old crops and bedding plants cleared and composted, and soil roughly turned to incorporate manure. Then there’s fruit pruning to be done, but that’s a job to tackle with some winter sun on your back. 

Yes, November’s a busy month, so I’m wrapping up warm and getting stuck in - before the snow arrives!





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