How to protect your plants

How to protect your plants

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

61 guides

Some of our garden plants have to deal with disease and pests while others have to stand up to damage from environmental factors like cold, drought, wind or animals such as birds or cats. Read on for the best ways to protect your plants from any harm that could compromise your harvests!

Important features

  • Location
  • Windbreaks
  • Mulch
  • Horticultural fleece
  • Bird protection
  • Cat deterrents
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Protecting your plants from the cold


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The hardiness of a plant indicates its ability to deal with extreme weather, particularly sub-zero temperatures. A cold-hardy plant is one able to withstand winter temperatures of below 0°C.

But wind and humidity can also weaken your plants. This is why the 'feels like' temperature is also applicable to your plants!

Humid air is much more difficult to cope with. Plants that have an especially hard time dealing with humidity should ideally be kept in a well-ventilated area. The movement of the air will help humidity to escape. If, on the other hand, you're hoping to protect your plants form the cold, there are several steps to follow.

Choose the right location for your plants

Some spots in the garden are more sheltered from the cold, wind or sun than others. In fact, knowing how to make the most of these spaces is one of the foundations of permaculture gardening.

You might also want to take advantage of the areas immediately surrounding your home to protect more delicate plants; the walls store any heat built up throughout the day to protect your plants overnight. Similarly, you can cover the soil around your sensitive plants with pebbles to keep them warm.

Installing a windbreak


Installing a windbreak

Wind can have a detrimental effect on your plants. It can speed up water evaporation on leaves and cool down and dry out your plants. Installing a windbreak around a balcony, deck or a specific area of the garden is a great way to protect plants that have to deal with a lot of wind exposure.

Providing shelter for your plants


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Potted plants can simply be brought indoors when the weather gets too much. You can use a plant trolley to move around any heavier pots. Cold-hardy potted plants can be gathered in groups at the foot of a wall so they are protected from draughts.

A greenhouse with a heating system can be used to store citrus plants, olive trees, palms, camellia or rhododendrons.

More sensitive tuberous plant bulbs (dahlias, gladiola and canna) and any non-hardy summer bulbs can be dug up and stored in an unheated but frost-free spot indoors.

Covering plants up for winter


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Perennial plants (like acanthus, crocosmias and sage) can be covered with a layer of mulch or dried leaves (around 20 cm thick). To keep your mulch from blowing away in the wind you can hold it in place using branches or a grid.

Covering evergreen plants with a horticultural fleece or ground mat is a good way to gain 2 or 3°C. You can even double or triple up on your protection for better insulation.

Eucalyptus, olive or banana trees can be surrounded by mesh filled with dry leaves (but be careful not to pack the leaves in too tightly). The trunk can also be protected by a straw or reed door mat that can be rolled up around the tree and held in place by ties or mesh.

Protecting plants with a frost covers


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Frost covers can be placed over the foliage of your shrubs. Be careful as you put your cover in place as it can damage delicate branches or buds. Mulch the base of any young shrubs to protect their root system.

When covering up any plants in pots or planters, don't forget to wrap up the container too whether this be a wooden pallet or a terracotta or plastic pot. This is especially important for evergreen shrubs as they are less cold-hardy than plants that lose their leaves. Cardboard or bubble wrap will do the job nicely!

Avoid watering your plants in winter. They will cope better with the cold when kept in soil that is on the drier side.

Bird deterrents


Bird deterrents

Birds quickly get used to any deterrents you might decide to set up so mix up your accessories for greater results. It's also important to use deterrents at the right time,(such as when your fruit starts to ripen). Here are a few examples:

  • installing visual bird scarers;
  • hanging tinfoil strips from fruit trees;
  • place a few CDs around tree branches with the reflective side facing out for the best effect;
  • install protective nets; this is the most effective way to protect your crops.

another old-fashioned method involves hanging a few mothballs contained in small bags to the branches of your tree; the smell is said to put off thieving birds and send them on their merry way!

If you want to sow peas or young lettuces, place a fine mesh over your seedlings or cover up your bed with branches.

Protecting plants from cats


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Cats can cause havoc around the garden. Not only do they scratch the soil to do their business, they may also turn their attention to your potted plants; cats tend to enjoy chewing on leaves (beware of any toxic plants), scratching your potting soil and may even have fun knocking over your plants.

Of course cats need to play, jump around and scratch. To direct their attention away from your plants, give them lots of equipment to occupy themselves with such as scratching posts or cat trees. You might also want to plant some 'cat grass' to satisfy their need to munch on greens. A few drops of an essential oil like peppermint can help to keep your cats away from your pots.

You can also simply surround your vegetable patch with branches or a fence to keep your cat out.

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Cat trees

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Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 61 guides

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy.   At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood.   I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.

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