Home Gardening jobs Overwintering plants: don’t get cold feet

Overwintering plants: don’t get cold feet

Aeoniums with bananas, Yucca and geraniums

1Get through to spring without losing your mind

A stray Echium seeded itself into this pot of geraniums – all the tender stuff (and me) in the conservatory

If you read gardening books and magazines or listen to so-called experts, you’ll know that now is the time to overwinter your tender plants.

You could be inclined to hide under a duvet until March to avoid all the hassle – or you could take my fatalistic approach to overwintering…

2Don’t be flash if you’re lazy

Abyssinian red banana, from The Lost World Nursery

If you’re too idle to protect sub-tropical plants, don’t splash out loads of cash on them in the first place. Bananas, etc, are for life, not just one summer. Buy a plastic plant instead.

3Don’t cry over your losses

Grey mould on a geranium as the atmosphere was too moist

You WILL have plants die on you. This is not your fault, it happens to the most experienced of gardeners (only they probably won’t tell you).

4Look on the black side

How to kill geraniums – keep them in humidity this high in November

Expect everything to die, then any plant that survives is a plant gained.

5Double (or triple) your chances of success

Echiums of various flavours under a heavyweight fleece bag

If you have borderline hardy plants, take some inside under glass, cover plants in borders with fleece and bubble wrap and move pots to sheltered locations, such as south or west-facing walls.

6Expect the unexpected

Echiums overwintering in the conservatory – they ended up with a serious greenfly problem

A few years back I moved a few Echiums in pots indoors – they got infested with aphids and barely made it through. The plants that had seeded themselves outdoors survived without a problem.

7Have a backup plan

Broad bean seedlings and geranium cuttings

Take cuttings of easily rooted varieties such as geraniums and succulents, or divide plants with a crown.

8Winter wet and wind are the real killers

Panels blown out in Storm Desmond, January 2016. I’ve since retro-fitted glazing bars after 3 bouts of wind damage

Rotting roots from excessive winter wet, especially for Mediterranean-type plants like lavender, is a major problem. Gale-force winds destroy greenhouses, letting in the cold to vulnerable plants. I’ve spent as much as my 8ftx4ft greenhouse cost originally in new glass and this is only its third winter! Explore retrofitting greenhouses with more wind-resistant glazing bars instead of the usual W-shaped glazing clips.

9Gravel and horticultural sand are life-savers

My garden has gravel paths and seating areas – at-risk plants have the best drainage ever

Add to the bottom of planting holes to aid drainage – Mediterranean plants will thrive in a mostly gravel-based growing medium. Water drains fast, so roots can’t rot or freeze. Mulching with gravel protects from frost.

10Watch the weather forecast

Snowy view from my window over the Ravensworth Estate and woods

BBC One’s Countryfile on Sunday evenings is my guide for the week (no Gardener’s World weather until spring). You’ll get an idea if you need to take action against adverse conditions coming your way.

11Invest in bubble wrap, fleece, and decent clips

Echium pininana in fleece bags, January 2015. They survived the winter

These cheap standbys are there to fling on plants if the weather turns freezing. Newspaper and old net curtains can also provide protection.


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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


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