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How does a trade plant nursery prepare for the autumn and winter months?

There’s no great trade secret when it comes to preparing the garden for autumn and winter. Plants, like the rest of us, like some form of protection when the weather starts to get colder and the nights draw in. We’ve been spoiled this year with an unseasonably mild September, but we know the weather will turn soon, so it’s best to be prepared. As a trade plant nursery we make sure that all our specimen plants are well-protected so that they can withstand the frosts that inevitable follow at this time of year. What should you be doing in your garden this autumn? Well, here is Ladybrook Nursery’s advice.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Protect young trees from sunscald (splitting of the trunk due to extreme temperature changes in winter) by painting the trunk with an outdoor, white latex paint or wrapping the trunk with tree wrap.
  • Protect tender evergreen shrubs, such as rhododendrons, from cold winds by driving four stakes into the soil around the shrub and wrapping burlap around the plant, or applying an anti-transpirant spray to the foliage.
  • Place wooden tepees over shrubs growing under eaves where snow tends to fall off the roof.
  • In warm winter areas, plant evergreen trees and shrubs now. Only plant deciduous trees and shrubs after they have shed their leaves. Keep plants well-watered if it doesn’t rain regularly.

Plants and flowers

In warmer parts of the country you can still plant flowers for winter and spring, providing you protect them and grow them in warmer microclimates, such as on the south side of a rock wall or in a protected nook near your house or garage. These areas are often protected from cold winds and stay warmer throughout the autumn.

In all areas, spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted six weeks before you expect the ground to freeze. Transplants of snapdragons, primroses, ornamental kale and cabbage, pansies, and violas make great additions to an autumn garden. In warmer areas they will flower all winter, whilst in colder parts they may survive the winter and flower again in spring if you cover and protect them with a thick layer of mulch.

What sort of frost protection does a trade plant nursery recommend?

Floating row covers 

Made from lightweight polyester or polypropylene fabric, floating row covers are loosely laid over plants and anchored down with soil, stones, or sticks. They allow the sun, rain, and air to reach plants, yet protect crops when temperatures drop. They come in different thicknesses; the thinnest ones won’t protect against frost, but the heavier ones can protect plants down to around minus 2° C.

Grow or poly tunnels

Grow tunnels are made from row cover fabric stretched over a metal or plastic frame. Some grow tunnels have slits allowing for natural venting so plants don’t overheat, but these don’t offer much protection against the cold. The thickest grow tunnel fabrics protect plants down to about minus 3° C.


Shaped like a bell or dome, cloches are usually made of plastic or glass. They’re great for protecting individual tender plants. Some cloches are airtight, offering more frost protection, but these need to be removed during sunny days so plants don’t overheat. If you want to keep maintenance to a minimum, choose cloches that are vented on top. They won’t protect plants from freezing temperatures as well as closed cloches, but plants are less likely to be burned from excessive heat during the day.

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