Just like us, trees and shrubs can suffer from chilly, windy or wet weather, but these few preventative measures will ensure they emerge in spring stronger than ever.
If the temperature plummets or winds pick up, even the hardiest of plants can struggle. Evergreens will be at particular risk, as will any trees or shrubs you might be excavating around. So, at the first sign of frost or winter gusts, cover them – especially any exposed roots. You can find specialist fleeces at garden centres, or simply find an old blanket or tarp. Just be careful the material is not too heavy for younger twigs, though: use stakes to take some of the weight if necessary.
Pot-based shrubs can be susceptible to root frostbite. This can be prevented by covering the pot in bubble wrap or straw, or burying it to the rim in the ground. Alternatively, consider bringing pots inside, or grouping with others for mutual shelter.
For longer-term protection, plant shelter belts using hedges or shrubs on the side of your prevailing wind next to your most vulnerable plants.
If very windy weather is expected, newly planted trees or shrubs may appreciate a little structural support, in the form of canes, frames or ties to a solid structure.
It is better to follow nature’s seasonal lead and stop all growth stimulation such as the application of nitrogen-rich fertilisers which can spur sappy growth – not only is this an added vulnerability for the plant, but it could attract aphids which mate and produce eggs over the winter months.
Soggy soil won’t hold shallow-rooted or young trees in a gust, so monitor and tackle any drainage issues promptly.
Use those leaves that helpfully fell during autumn to reduce soil compaction and erosion which heavy rain can cause. Alternatively, use straw, well-rotted manure, garden compost or chipped bark.
When any significant amount of snow collects on the tops of hedges or trees, it is surprisingly heavy and can damage weaker branches. If snow is likely, prune hedges to taper at the top for added strength, and to encourage snow to drop, then shake any branches that have collected excessive amounts of snow (but take care not to stand underneath while doing so!)
Winter is a good time to prune trees generally – and native fruit trees such as apples particularly benefit as this stimulates the bud growth in the spring that will give rise to fruit.
With these simple, attentive measures, you should be rewarded with a glorious spring surge.