Brrr, it’s cold out here. And I live in the third mildest district in the country.
I’ve had to scrape the windscreen on my car three mornings running now, and I can’t help but turn my thoughts to those hardy (and not so hardy) little vegetable plants that sit out in the elements all night long, every night.
Lots of winter veg plants are very robust, but you might want to consider giving some protection to overwintering broad beans and peas for example or shelter your late carrot crop.
If you do, here are a few ways in which you can do just that.
Cover with Fleece
Try covering your row with horticultural fleece, which will insulate the plants on cold nights. The fleece is mesh-like, so if you can’t get to the plot to remove the cover, light can still get in. Remember to secure the fleece with old tent hooks or bricks if the wind gets up.
Build a Mini Polytunnel!
One of the neatest solutions I’ve seen at the local allotments used lengths of willow, shaped into an arc, and poked into the ground at each end. A number of these lengths had been placed in a line, with clear plastic sheeting pegged down over the willow.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have worried if this was completely ineffectual, they just looked ace!
Cold frames are readily available at garden centres and online but can be easily made with an old window and a few bits of timber. If you’ve got the time, a homemade version can be much stronger and longer lasting than cheaper shop alternatives.
A really simple option is to make a rectangle out of old bricks, two high, and lay glass or a window on top.
Mulching around the base of plants doesn’t just insulate, it helps keep water in around the roots. Frozen soil can stop plants from pulling up water, leaving them to die of thirst.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I began growing in my back garden was to think ahead and plan with the surrounding features in mind.
Give Plants Shelter
Planting winter crops where they have some shelter is a good protection tactic. Next to a wall or fence are good places to plant, as they will give some shelter and warmth and provide a shield from the wind.
Watch Where the Sun Falls (and where it doesn’t)
Keep an eye on which parts of your allotment or garden get the most sun. However, remember frost pockets too. These will be in the lowest parts of the space, so don’t plant winter crops here.
Bring Plants Undercover
If you have plants in containers, bring them into the greenhouse or conservatory during really cold spells. Many people grow blueberries in pots because they can be moved to a milder place when the frosty weather bites.
I’ve also seen broad beans and peas overwintered in pots rather than the ground. Again, the advantage of this is that they can be left undercover until the weather warms up.