How to Prepare your Garden for Snow and Ice

Freezing temperatures pose a serious challenge to your garden. The plants, the lawn, pond, landscaping and the furniture or any fixtures you have out in the open will need to be protected to avert severe damage. Any kind of weather extreme calls for proactive measures and winter is no different. Let us explore what you need and what you should do to prepare your garden for snow and ice.

There are three quintessential aspects that will influence your choices. One is the type of plant life you have in your garden, also extending to the natural landscape and pond life if you have a water feature. The second aspect is how you wish to protect the plants, flowers and fixtures including furniture. The third aspect is the tools or materials you need to ensure optimum protection.

How to Protect Plants?

Some plants can withstand freezing temperatures, most cannot. Even those that can endure harsh winters will be vulnerable to the freeze thaw cycle. Frost is the nemesis of most plants. Frosting during cold winter nights will lead to freezing of the water in the plant cells. The cell wall will be damaged as a result. This is fatal for flowers, fruits and also the entire plant. While plants will be damaged internally, this would be further worsened by the frozen topsoil. If the roots are unable to extract moisture from the soil then that will damage the plant and may cause its death sooner than later. Just like the freeze thaw cycle, frosting poses another danger when defrosting happens in the morning. Defrosting ruptures the frozen cell walls.

The first step is to insulate the pots you are using outdoors. You can use winter jackets like a cloche, bubble wrap or garden fleece for this purpose. If insulating the pots would not be enough, you can create a temporary shed for the plants. You can use old blankets and cover the plants. You can use tarpaulin as well. Make sure the tarpaulin or the blanket is held down or tied properly so the cold wind doesn’t blow it away during the night. Any plant that is more vulnerable to the cold weather and that is small enough should be brought inside.

The secret to protecting plants from freezing temperatures is to insulate them from the harsh cold during the evenings and nights and then allowing them to get enough light and air through the days. You can consider adding bark mulch to the flower beds. This will insulate the topsoil. You can also use bubble wrap or fleece for the trunks of young trees. Even evergreen plants will be protected with bark mulch. Don’t forget to remove the insulation, wrap or shelter you provide for the plants in the morning. The plants need the sunlight and fresh air. You may also consider a grow house or a cold frame if you live somewhere that gets uncomfortably cold.

How to Protect Garden Furniture & Tools

Garden furniture, equipment and tools will get damaged during freezing temperatures. You should consider removing all outdoor furniture if it is going to snow heavily. Areas that don’t receive snowfall and only experience fluctuating but very low temperatures will not pose as great a threat to outdoor furniture and tools as massive snowfall. Being capped with ice or snowed under will cause significant damage to all kinds of tools, fixtures and furniture.

Ensure that the outdoor furniture, equipment and tools are dry before you put them away. Put them in a dry place. It could be your garage or a store room but it should be dry and well insulated. You can use a temporary shed made of tarpaulin for outdoor furniture that cannot be brought inside. You can buy special covers that can offer enough coverage for all your furniture or you can get individual pieces for every equipment or tool you have. Don’t leave a cover handling atop the furniture. Make sure you seal it well or tie it down with something unmovable and substantially heavy. If you are storing your furniture in a barn or some shed in your backyard, make sure it is weatherproofed. Consider re-felting the shed’s or barn’s roof.

How to Protect Pond Life?

Some marine plants and fishes will be able to endure freezing temperatures. You may or may not have those plants and wildlife in your pond. There are some underwater weeds that would survive even if the surface of the pond is frozen. But not all plants and fishes will be able to endure the lack of light, fresh air at the surface and a completely insulated but freezing world.

The biggest threat in a frozen pond, even if it is just the surface that has frozen, is methane. When the underwater vegetation decomposes in a damp pond, the methane exuded from the plants will poison the fish. The fishes are trapped under the ice and they are literally helpless. You can take a few simple steps to prevent the pond from freezing. You can float a ball or have some object moving and floating atop. This will prevent icing. You can use floating pond heaters. These have a thermostat that will turn on the heat when temperatures dip beyond a certain point. Consequentially, you would not have icing on the surface of the pond. If you do find the surface of pond frozen, don’t break or smash the ice. Use gentler techniques to melt it.

The freezing issue is not the only problem for pond life. You need to ensure that the pond gets adequate sunlight which will be prevented if there’s icing on top. Sunlight facilitates photosynthesis and days are anyway short during winters. You must make maximum sunlight available to the pond. Get rid of any trees or shrubs that have an overarching presence atop and around the pond. Trim and prune all growth around the pond so sunlight is not obstructed at all. These overhanging shrubs or trees will also contribute to dumping snow and vegetation, facilitating the freezing of the pond.

Simple Steps to Prepare Well

Every season has its challenges. Winter is the most challenging which is why it is harder to prepare for. Here are a few steps you should take to prepare your garden.

  • If you have clay based soil, break it into smaller clumps. Else, it would freeze quickly and become one giant lump.
  • Prune branches of trees, deciduous shrubs and get rid of all dead vegetation.
  • Think of a greenhouse. Apart from protecting your garden during winter, the greenhouse will also facilitate quicker growth.
  • Store all composting matter through the winter in a compost bin. The composts would remain relatively warm and you can use it when the soil needs to be replenished during spring.

Winter Gardening Tips

Do not neglect your garden and don’t bid adieu to gardening when the mercury drops. Here are some winter gardening tips that you must endorse.

When to get rid of snow

When your garden is snowed under, the trees and plants will be insulated to an extent. The vegetation or flowers will not be exposed directly to the freeze thaw cycle. However, if the snowfall was heavy and the dump scales several feet, then it would damage the trees and plants. Get rid of excess snow. Shake it off from the hedges, branches and shrubs. Do not let the sheer weight of the snow to break the branches or stems and smash small plants entirely.

Heavy and thick layers of snow will prevent sunlight and hence heat. The plants underneath will not be able to get the warmth during the day and will also be deprived of photosynthesis. If you find the snow deforming the trees or plants, use strings to provide additional support to the branches and trunks or stems to stand upright against the snowfall. Do not walk on frozen grass. You would damage the turf. Do not have trees that can accumulate snow as it falls and then dump it on the plants below and around it.

How to help Damaged Plants

Despite your best attempts, you may fail to protect a few plants and trees. Some may recover and some may be beyond remedy. If you find some trees or plants damaged, take a few smart steps.

Do not let the plants defrost quickly in the early morning. Let the shade be untouched till the plants have started defrosting. Let them get exposed to sunlight slowly. Do not let frosted growth fester. Prune or cut the affected parts of the plants. They will grow new and fresh shoots. Damaged plants will need better fertiliser in spring for optimum growth. Plants that are beyond recovery should be got rid of.

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