By the time you read this, parts of the UK are, or will have been plunged into artic-like conditions, with snow lying on the ground, even as far south as Cornwall. Whilst this can be particularly picturesque and there is a certain novelty factor of the first snow fall of winter (and indeed possibly the first snow fall of a few years), there are horticultural and practical implications for one’s garden.
Most plants that have established themselves over a number of years can easily survive a few days underneath a blanket of snow. However, it’s worth dusting off snowfall from the leaves of larger plants if possible to reduce the risk of ‘burn’ to the leaves (whereby they could turn brown and die off). Smaller plants and more newly planted shrubs are at greatest risk so if you are reading this before the predicted snowfall, try and see if you are able to protect these with a cloche or horticultural ‘fleece’.
Paths can obviously become quite perilous if they are walked on with snowfall and then the slush freezes. So, it’s worth perhaps having a bucket of sand on standby to keep essential routes to your front/back doors clear. Sand is slightly less abrasive to decking materials than salt and it can be brushed into surrounding flowerbeds after the thaw (horticulture sand is best if you have access to this).
Some seasoned gardeners are used to preparing their greenhouses for winter anyway, but if you haven’t already, it would be prudent to consider insulating the building (on inside) using bubble wrap and drawing pins. It may only add a degree or two of extra warmth, but that could be all the difference to a plants survival, and it’ll also help cut out the all too dangerous draughts.
In terms of draughts, if reports are to be believed, we could be looking at the prospect of ‘Thunder Snow’ in some areas with fierce winds. Plants that tend to be most prone to wind damage are fruit trees…these suffer from root rock which can ultimately cause tree roots to rot and eventually die off, killing the tree. Stakes driven into the ground at 45 degrees at 2 different angles to one another and fastened to the tree (bottom quarter) with a soft, and preferably slightly elastic strap, would help minimise damage from the strong winds. These stakes can remain in place until young trees reach maturity, but remember to ensure the straps are adjusted periodically as the tree grows and to avoid damage to the tree’s bark and trunk.
If you have a pond or water feature, a plastic ball could be your best friend for a few days. A plastic ball in a pond will help prevent it freezing. If the pond does freeze and if you have fish beneath, you could be at risk of injuring your fish by smashing the ice, so prevention is certainly better than cure.