During the recent cold snap of late December and early January temperatures fell to a low of -4. In Cornwall this is an unusual event with us all being lulled in to a false sense of security in believing we had a ‘Mediterranean’ climate. Last January we felt the coldest temperatures for two decades and now 2010 has started with frost, ice and even snow.

If you’ve watched any of the survival programmes on TV with Bear Grylls or Ray Mears you probably know how to survive being stranded in the desert or the frozen artic. But how do you protect your plants during the winter.

Some basic tips are as follows.

If you have plants in pots try to move the them to a frost free greenhouse, cool conservatory, garden shed or if not at least to the bottom of a south facing wall. You need to protect the roots from being completely frozen in the pot. Water sparingly only when temperatures are above freezing.

Plants out in the garden can surprisingly with stand quite low temperatures (unless of course they are tender, I will come on to them in a minute) and only really suffer if there is prolonged ground freezing which will actually have the same effect as drought with the available water locked from use. The cold damp Cornish winter is more of a killer than just being cold. Plants in their native origins with stand far colder temperatures.

Tender plants or plants know to be borderline hardy need a little help to see them through. Here we use horticultural fleece but you can use bubble wrap, although I would urge that you remove the bubble wrap as soon as the sun comes out otherwise you could cook your plants. We create all sorts of wigwams and frames out of bamboo and cover with fleece trying not to let any come in contact with the leaves as this will allow the frost in to the foliage. Plants like Bananas we concentrate on protecting the stem as the foliage will more than likely be burnt off in the lightest of frost.

I am asked most about how we protect our tree ferns. The simple answer is we don’t but if you have young plants it is helpful to tie in a small bundle of straw on to the crown to at least help a bit.

Hope this helps. See you in the spring (which is gonna be amazing due to the cold holding everything back especially for our March 1st opening.

Thank you Mother Nature.