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22/09/2013 at 09:00

I am now in my 3rd year of gardening and I saw in The Lady that we are in for a very hard winter starting on Boxing Day and some people tell me to put more mulch or strulch round my plants and others say lay fleece around them.

Can I ask what people do, if anything, to keep their play warm and when do you do it?

22/09/2013 at 09:12

Absolutely nothing. If the plants cannot survive even the harshest winter then we do not grow them. Best option is a really deep mulch of almost anything. At least that looks better than fleeece.

22/09/2013 at 09:41

I wonder what information The Lady is basing its prediction on - forecasts further ahead that 30 days are even more unreliable than the usual weather forercasts.

Some people are saying that we're in for a hard winter because of the good crop of hips and haws in the hedgerows.  In my opinion this is more likely to be the result of a good summer, rather than indicative of the trees' ability to predict the future. 

If we get warning of an imminent cold snap then I'll increase the  fleece around my fig tree and bubblewrap the cuttings and perennials in the growhouse.  

To do this earlier and in mild weather would be to risk moulds and botrytis affecting them.

Hardy perennials in the garden will have to take their chance as they did last winter.  They survived nearly 3 months of being buried under snow then. 

22/09/2013 at 09:46
I'm planning to mulch my borders when i do the big cut down this autumn. Can i just spread a layer all over or do i have to leave "breathing spaces" around the crowns of the perennials that have died down ??
22/09/2013 at 09:53

I agree with Berghill about growing what does well.

Winters have been particularly hard since Jan 2009 and were already harder than the average UK winter.  It's not so bad when there's a snow blanket to protect plants but lethal when it's cold and dry or cold and very wet for long periods.  I've lost count of the shrubs and plants I have lost and have stopped buying fancy plants with wussy tendencies and stick to good doers that will cope.

The best way to protect plants is a good mulch so that at least the crown is protected.  They have the added benefit of improving the soil.   After that, wind breaks which can be either porous wooden fences, shrubs or special netting stretched on posts or wire fences.   Fleece is fine in a greenhouse but looks dreadful in gardens and gets blown to bits in the first gale.

22/09/2013 at 10:02
Hi obelixx - so to protect the crowns with mulch do you have to bury them under the stuff?
22/09/2013 at 10:20

As long as they have died down properly then yes the mulch may be put on so as to completely cover the plant.

22/09/2013 at 10:34

Contact the author of the article predicting a harsh winter and ask them if they would bet their pension on it? I think not. Mulch is always good for plants/soil. Fleece is purely for protection.

22/09/2013 at 10:36
Brill - that makes the mulching job much more simple than i had been making it ! Is it different when you do it in the spring? I must have read somewhere that you have to fiddle around keeping crowns clear!
22/09/2013 at 11:48

If there is new green growth then covering that up might lead to problems, so in Spring you do need to be more careful. Have to say though, that we just throw it one without trying to be careful.

Old rule from years back, was Mulch in Autumn to conserve heat and manure in Spring to warm the soil.

22/09/2013 at 11:52

Mulching done in autumn when the plants have died down just involves clearing dead growth that may encourage or shelter slugs and tipping well rotted garden compost or manure or a mix of the two over the ground and spreading it, the thicker the better.  It helps trap moisture and autumn warmth in the soil and protects the crowns of plants from frost.    It gets worked in by worm activity over the winter so aerates and feeds the soil and its organisms and improves texture, making it easier for plants to grow good roots.

 

22/09/2013 at 12:51

Thank you for all the advice and I think it will be mulch for me...for the plants!

The man who claims to predict the weather so far in advance is David King and the article was in the 30th August edition of The Lady but I can see the sense in snow not being the problem as the snow will keep the plants snug and warm.

Even as a new gardener I can see the logic of not worrying about weaklings and being all Malthus about it. I will dispose of anything that dies and duplicate what lives!

One last quetion on wintering down my garden.. Just what part of the pant is the crown? I would have thought it would be the top but my tiny hydrangea has finally got its finger out and has crept about 45 cms up the fence so I dont want to cut that down and cover it with mulch..do I? Other plants are roses, dogwood, clematis, hypericum, kew and, of course, ericas.

22/09/2013 at 13:01

Climbing hydrangea is perfectly hardy, it does not need protection.  I think you are thinking of doing stuff that is not necessary.  Roses, etc are not cut down and covered with mulch.  With most plants that are potentially tender, covering around the roots is enough if that is what you want to do.

If the winter is particularly harsh you might lose the odd plant or two but most of them will sail through.  Just don't buy too many tender plants.

22/09/2013 at 13:01

http://www.lady.co.uk/people/features/2874-dave-s-nose-vs-the-met-office

With the greatest of respect to all concerned, most of what he says is complete myth, happenstance, coincidence and balderdash in my humble opinion.

And as for his assertion that this year the oak trees have provided acorns to feed the robins  European robins are mainly insectiverous although they do eat small seeds.  I'm not aware of them eating acorns - I'd have thought acorns are much too big for them.  

Last winter was one of the hardest for many years and many small birds (and large ones too, such as barn owls) were lost, and yet Mr King says that last year 'Nature decided' that the robins didn't need the acorns   I'm sorry but that's complete poppycock. 

He may be confused - American robins, a different species to ours, eat acorns - perhaps he's prophesying the weather for the USA?

I hope he didn't use similar techniques when trying to solve crimes, rather than relying on established scientific and forensic methods.

As for the  plants mentioned above, none of those need special treatment to see them through any British winter, so just give the soil around them a good mulching to enrich the soil and improve it's structure and water retentiion.  The plants will be fine. 

22/09/2013 at 13:11

The crown of the plant is the part just under the soil from which perennials produce new shoots each year.   Shrubs and climbers don't have such a crown but still like to have a mulch to improve the soil.

Have to agree about David King and anyone being able to predict weather 6 months ahead.  However, given who is the editor of the Lady I don't expect much better.

22/09/2013 at 13:18

Oh I say!  It's all going on in The Lady isn't it? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2154002/Male-editor-The-Lady-moved-family-home-affair-assistant.html 

Think I'd better stick to Gardener's World - far more calming and reliable 

22/09/2013 at 13:39

Well, I'm clearly behind the times as I thought it was the idiot Johnson woman.

22/09/2013 at 17:22

Actually I had a 5 week trial of The Lady but I have decided not to subscribe to it. Obelixx I will have to check up on who the editor is.

I will put what mulch I have got in the shed around my plants and stop worrying.

I am on a steep learning curve with gardening. Many thanks for your help.

22/09/2013 at 18:46

You're welcome Erica   

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