Photo by Sally Ann Hayes
Coping with ice and heavy snow in your garden
The RHS Advisory Service has received a marked increase in calls from gardeners concerned about the affect the heavy snow and ice is having on their plants. Jenny Bowden, RHS Advisor says, “By taking sensible precautions gardeners can protect their plants and produce from the worst of the winter weather. With a bit of care and attention during this inclement weather people can avoid having to replace valuable plants, trees and shrubs.”
- Fruit trees and other woody plants can be pruned in weather down to -5°C
- Where fruit cage netting was left on, tap the snow off from beneath to reduce damage to the fruit cage. Repair cages that have already collapsed. Also remove snow from other structures including cloches and cold frames
- Winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and parsnips should be fine but beware some might rot after prolonged freezes
- Take care that stored produce including fruit doesn’t freeze
- Research suggests it is no longer necessary to break the ice on many ponds. However, ponds in which fish are kept or that have a large build-up of sediment or leaves do need oxygen. For these, continue to run water features to keep a section ice free and the water circulating
- To avoid bird baths freezing, insulate the bottom with bubblewrap or similar and replace water regularly.
- Mulching wet or frozen soil is best avoided
- Check the temperature in your greenhouse to maintain frost free conditions for plants such as citrus
- It’s best to avoid watering or feeding plants in pots and containers, even if it’s windy, until the weather thaws.
- Knock off snow from evergreens and conifer branches as there is a danger bent branches won’t rebound
- If boughs split, prune off the affected area ensuring the cut is tidy and snag-free
- It’s too late to put bubble wrap around containers to help insulate plant roots, but you could move them next to a house wall or porch.
- For indoor plants avoid overwatering and sudden drops in temperature
- And finally – beware as voles, mice and rabbits can become very hungry and use snow to scale fences and reach higher up stems to do damage