With temperatures across France and the UK set to plummet it’s your last chance to prepare your garden for freezing temperatures and to make sure wildlife is looked after.
From tonight snow and night-time temperatures of -11c are forecast for us here in la Corrèze, France. Whilst I have already protected my most tender plants including my Gunnera manicata and Fatsia japonica, time has run away with itself and I find myself in a bit of a panic about how I can quickly protect the rest of my garden before the freezing temperatures arrive.
Here are 10 ideas I’ve come up with which, if you are a little behind like me with not much time to spare, will help you to protect your plants and wildlife.
1. Move any frost tender plants or bulbs in containers indoors. A greenhouse, polytunnel or shed where there is still plenty of light is ideal. If you have none of these, place them in the coolest room in your home whilst the worst of the weather passes.
2. Wrap any pots containing plants and bulbs which are too heavy to move in bubble wrap, fleece, fabric or an old blanket.
3. Protect any new plant or bulb shoots already poking through the soil by placing a bucket or plastic plant pot over them during the night. Remember to remove them in the morning once temperatures have risen; they need the light.
4. Prioritise protecting tender plants which catch the early morning sun. Minus temperatures causes the water in plant cells to freeze. The morning sun then defrosts the plants too quickly, causing the cell walls to rupture which badly damages the plants.
5. To protect shrubs from heavy snow which can break branches they ideally need to have a framework built around them which can then be covered with fleece. With time short use thick branches, offcuts of wood, pallets, ladders, step ladders or old beams to make a temporary structure that a protective sheet can be placed over. Once the worst of the weather has passed, it can be removed or replaced by something more suitable; so long as it is sturdy and safe, it’ll work in an emergency!
6. Protect ground planted Cordyline and palms by tying their leaves up together and wrapping them in fleece or fabric to protect their crowns.
7. Mulching will help to keep soil warm and protect plant roots. Tree bark, leaves, straw, manure, the branches from the real Christmas tree you’ve just thrown out can all be used to help protect your garden borders in an emergency!
8. Avoid using plastic to cover plants as this will not allow them to breathe and could cause them to sweat and rot. Any fabric sheets are suitable.
9. Snow itself will help to insulate your plants so once you have a covering the plants beneath will be protected from the frost and cold temperatures. However, a thick layer of snow can cause branches on shrubs and evergreens to break, so gently shake them to remove the weight.
10. Last, but by no means least, remember the wildlife. During freezing temperatures and snow natural food sources are covered or hard to get at and water supplies are frozen. Keep bird feeders and tables topped up with food. If you don’t have any high energy bird food such as my Haute Cuisine bird seed feeder to hand, put out scraps from your kitchen such as chopped up nuts, cheese, bacon rind, bread, apples and pears. Ensure that there is also a fresh supply of water for birds to drink from; during freezing weather this will need to be changed daily. Ponds can quickly become frozen over causing toxic gases to build up in the water which can kill any fish or hibernating frogs living there. Help to keep an area of your pond clear by placing a ball on the water. Its movement will help to stop the water from freezing, and if it does still freeze over, by using a squashy ball you will be able to easily remove it during the day to leave an area free from ice.
If like me you have snow and freezing temperatures forecast for the week ahead please keep warm and safe but also take a bit of time to admire the beauty of it all; it will look magical!
If you have any emergency tips to help us to protect our gardens or help wildlife during a cold snap, I’d love to know, please do leave your comments in the box below.