by Lea Emery on 14th January 2019
For many avid gardeners, the summer is the time of labor and reward — where hours spent toiling and caring are met with gorgeous blooms and bountiful harvests. Or, for the less talented among us, we manage to make things not die for a few months of the year. But then, as autumn turns to winter, the garden often ends up abandoned, turning into a bit of a frost-covered tundra until spring rolls around again.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to be the most experienced gardener to keep your garden alive — and even happy — through the winter months. It can take a little time and a little investment, but there are plenty of ways to capitalise your outside space all year long.
Not convinced you have a green enough thumb to help your garden thrive? Here’s what you need to know.
Invest in Protection
When it comes to getting your garden through the winter, you need to think defensively — and that means protection. Wrapping your pots in bubble wrap can protect them against the frost, horticultural fleece can keep vulnerable plants safe, and using twine can protect your entire garden against the wind.
If you get really into tending your winter garden, there are even more options available. Cloches — also known as bell jars — are bell-shaped glass covers that you can use to protect your plants and help things grow even when the temperature isn’t on your side. These can be quite vulnerable to wind, so making sure there’s some protection — like a hedge, wall, or edge of a building — is crucial.
Of course, the ultimate winter tool for outdoor gardeners is a greenhouse — but these can be expensive. If you can invest in a greenhouse, it’s a great way to keep your plants warm and safe, but if that’s outside your budget then a garden shed or even a three-walled structure can be a huge improvement on leaving your more delicate plants open to the winter air.
Choose Your Plants Wisely
As much as it would be lovely if your garden bloomed as fruitfully all year round as it does in summer, it’s no surprise that some plants fare better in certain temperatures. When focusing on your winter plants, you need to be savvy. During winter, you can plant flowers like tulips and daffodils that will flower in spring — or choose plants like heather and pansies that do well all year long. If your garden is more of the edible variety, you can focus on cabbage, watercress, beetroot, artichokes, and other hearty plants and herbs that are perfect to grow through the winter months.
Unfortunately, you do need to be realistic. If you’ve spent the summer carefully nurturing exotic or more delicate plants, you may just not want to take the risk of them surviving the winter months outdoors. Plants like fuchsia can be potted and brought inside, keeping them safe until spring comes.
Prepare Your Ground
There are a few different ways you can help maximize your planting space for the winter months. Some winter gardeners swear by raised beds to give themselves more control during the more difficult times of the year. Checking your soil’s pH levels is crucial, especially if you’re a regular compost user. Compost gradually increases the acidity of your soiland can throw your levels off, so adding lime in the winter might be recommended. Mulch can also be used to keep your soil warm and moist — and it's often a cheap way to upgrade your garden. Do some research or talk to your local gardening store for the best ways to protect the soil in your area.
There’s no guarantee that your garden is going to bloom just as lusciously through the winter months, but it can still be alive and thriving with a little bit of prep. Be realistic, be savvy, and invest in creating a nurturing, protected environment — your garden can give back year round, if you let it.
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