Ice and snow can result in a multitude of issues outside your home. Aside from access problems, your lawn, plants, garden furniture and landscaping can suffer during prolonged periods of freezing weather or when blanketed with snow.
Follow our simple steps to help shield your garden from the worst the weather can throw at it, protect your household and adapt to colder conditions.
Tools & materials required
Protect your garden
During a cold snap it's important to shield plants, garden furniture and bikes from frost and water damage as repeat exposure to freeze and thaw can split wood, rust metal and damage plants. At B&Q we have all the protection you’ll need.
Cold weather, particularly frost, causes the water in plant cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. Periods of particularly cold, frosty weather can also kill blossom and damage fruit. Hardy plants and tough evergreens can also be damaged by prolonged spells of severe cold when soil becomes frozen. Roots are unable to take up water and plants die from lack of moisture.
Frost problems are often made worse where plants face the morning sun, as this causes them to defrost quickly, rupturing their cell walls. To keep plants happy, insulate any outdoor pots staying out with winter jackets - a cloche is ideal for the job, otherwise a garden fleece or bubble wrap works well.
If you need to protect your plants from a small number of especially cold nights a simple shelter such as an old blanket or tarpaulin may be enough. You may need to weigh or tie it down so that it doesn't blow away and remember to take it off during the day so that the plants can get light and air. Bring any delicate plants inside and once inside reduce watering to match plant requirements.
As long as the soil remains moist then your plant should be just fine. Add simple bark mulch to your flower beds to act as a blanket and wrap up any young tree trunks, again fleece or bubble wrap will do the job. Evergreen plants will particularly benefit from bark or mulch.
Remember, insulation works both ways. It can prevent the soil from cooling off too quickly, but it can also prevent it from warming up promptly when the time comes. You will need to rake it back away from the plants as spring starts to warm up.
If you live in an area that's prone to snow and you're planting a lot of seeds it may be worth investing in a cold frame or grow house. The protective area will extend the growing season, as well as help maintain temperatures and keep vermin at bay
Protect garden furniture & tools
Garden equipment and furniture can be seriously damaged by extreme weather. To keep your furniture looking its very best for longer, ensure that all pieces are fully dry before putting away and store in dry conditions.
If your garden furniture is too big to be brought inside or kept in your shed, a furniture cover or tarpaulin can go some way to protecting it from the elements. Make sure you buy a cover large enough to go completely over your furniture and secure it tightly or weigh it down with something heavy.
If you are storing furniture, or other garden equipment and tools, in a shed but are concerned about weatherproofing it's worth re-felting the roof of your shed. Find out more with our video guide to felting a shed roof
As temperatures drop, keep a close eye on garden ponds to ensure that conditions don't become too harsh for fish and wildlife. Pond life can be supported throughout the British winter with care and provide a valuable resource for wildlife.
Dealing with ice
As frosty weather sets in, the biggest risk for pond dwellers is ice. As vegetation decomposes in the damp, pond environment, it releases methane. If the surface of the pond is frozen over, this becomes trapped and can poison fish. Fortunately, there is a simple solution - float a ball or similar on the water's surface and the movement will help to prevent a layer of ice from forming. If you are concerned about the water temperature dropping too low, look for floating pond heaters fitted with a thermostat, which will give out gentle heat when low temperatures are reached. If ice does form on the surface of your pond, take care not to smash this as the shock waves can be harmful to fish.
Light and bright
Shorter days mean less sunlight, which is needed by pond plants to photosynthesis. To keep your pond life healthy and to provide a welcoming habitat make sure the surface of the water is kept clear from leaves and debris. Prune back any overhanging shrubs and trees which may deposit snow or vegetation into the pond.
For the garden, Winter is a time of preparation. Even when temperatures are at their lowest and there doesn't seem to be much life in your garden, there are plenty of things to do to help ensure a bountiful spring.
- Rough dig clay-based soil and break it down into small clumps.
- Prune deciduous shrubs and remove dead or diseased branches.
- Invest in a greenhouse - a great storage provider, it'll also make propagating plants from seeds much easier.
- Turn composting matter in your compost bin. Compost will tend to remain warm throughout the winter, decomposing vegetable matter ready for use as soil improver in spring.
Clearing your garden
Although it may be beautiful to look at, snow can be a major problem for gardeners, damaging plant growth and killing tender plants. We can help you avoid damage with our winter gardening tips.
Dealing with snow in your garden
The benefit of snow is that it acts as an insulator, protecting plants from the cold and frost. However, a heavy layer of snow can also cause problems. The weight of the snow can cause leaves and branches to break, so it's important to know how to deal with it when it arrives.
- Shake excess snow from the branches of large trees, shrubs and hedges, to prevent them from becoming disfigured by the weight and avoid the chance of branches snapping.
- Remove heavy deposits of snow from the roofs of greenhouses or cold frames to let in the light and prevent the structures from buckling under the weight.
- Use lengths of string to support the branches of conifers and stop them being pulled out of shape. Branches that move away from the main plant won't spring back into place when the snow melts.
- Avoid walking on snow-covered grass as it will damage the turf beneath and leave unsightly marks on the lawn. It can also encourage the growth of fungal diseases which thrive in the cool, damp conditions.
- The trees around your home could pose a threat if there has been a build up of ice and snow. If it looks like a large tree could deposit a hefty lump of snow onto a greenhouse or conservatory roof, it's worth gently removing the snow from the branch to avoid damage.
If your plants do get caught by the frost this doesn't necessarily mean the end for them. Many plants will recover given time. However there are ways of minimising the damage:
- Protect them from the morning sun, which can damage growth if the plant defrosts too quickly. If you can't move the plants, try covering them with a layer of black plastic to block out the sun.
- Cut back frosted growth in spring to a healthy, new bud, to prevent further die back and encourage plants to produce fresh, new shoots.
- Feed damaged plants in the spring with a balanced fertiliser to encourage strong, healthy growth.
- Dig up small, tender plants and take them into the greenhouse or place under a cold frame. Many will quickly produce new growth and recover, provided they are not subjected to prolonged periods of heavy frost, wet or cold.
- Newly-planted specimens will often lift themselves proud of the soil surface if there is a hard frost straight after planting. Check them regularly and re-firm the ground around them to ensure their roots are always in contact with the soil. Consider adding a layer of bark or mulch on the soil surface to add an extra layer of insulation.