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How To Keep Outdoor Plants Alive During Winter

Winter is here, and like every other season we start preparing our home, surrounding, and garden to flow with the new season. For some people they go shopping for their winter needs and accessories, However, we shouldn’t forget our babies that will be outside during this period.

Are we making plans for our outdoor plants as well? Or we just let them die and move on after winter is over?
I got serious about gardening recently and I know how worried I was when the first winter came. I have to go into the world of research, questions, and many more.


Well because I can’t lose my babies during the winter. My plants are my babies. I was so worried that they might be from the cold weather. So, I started putting my research to the test, and that is what brought the idea of this article.

I know that like me, there are lots of people out there who go through the same problem every winter season.

The basic step to keep outdoor plants alive during the winter is to water them thoroughly.

Insulate the watered soil with mulch to retain moisture and warmth. You may also need to Cover the plants when necessary, depending on how severe the winter weather was to prevent frost.

Keeping your plants alive throughout the winter is not a difficult process. However, you need to do it the right way, because all plants are approached differently.

Keep Outdoor Plants Alive During Winter

Generally, all plants possess a mechanism that allows them to slow down their growth during winter. It is also possible to keep them on their feet and get some lovely harvest from your outdoor plants, even during winter.

The main problem with the winter season is the freezing of the soil.

Soil freezing up to the root of your plants will most likely kill the plant or result in them wilting and eventually dying if not catered to as soon as possible.

Irrigate Your Plants During The Winter To Prevent Damage

This may look somewhat counterintuitive, but watering your plants before the ground frosts will not only help regulate the temperature difference between the plant roots and the soil, but the practice also helps them survive the cold weather. However, this is not a one-step process, because if the temperature drops very low the soil will still freeze and the damages anticipated will eventually occur.

So what do you do?

Monitor the weather. If it is forecasted to have a freezing night, water your soil a lot during the day. Why? Because wet soil tends to hold warmth better. Leaving your soil dry will most likely get their roots frozen on cold nights, which will kill them in no time.

Also, before winter hits, it’s a good idea to do what is called deep watering. This procedure requires that you add water to your soil until it is wet up to at least 6 inches in depth. Do this about once a week leading up to winter. Some gardeners like to deep water every few days in the period leading up to winter. It’s up to you, but I suggest at least once a week. This will ensure the soil around your plants is insulated well enough for the cold weather.

Apply Mulch To Prevent Frost

Winter mulching is a way of protecting plants from frost during the winter season. 

I found out that mulching outdoor plants during winter helps protect their roots and soil from freezing. It helps keep moisture in the soil for a long time at night and reduces the risk of freezing and thawing.

A few inches of mulch can go a long way to sustain the life of your outdoor plants.

How do you mulch your plants during winter?

This depends on the goal you are trying to achieve, and also your environment. For example, if you’re trying to keep your plants active during the winter instead of just keeping them alive while they’re dormant. Then you need to watch your environment temperature before you mulch your outdoor plants. This is because if your location is characterized by mild freezing weather conditions during the winter, and not below-freezing temperatures, mulching your plants will most likely keep them active.

On the other hand, if you’re in an area with below-freezing temperatures, mulching your outdoor plants will protect them and keep them safe while they’re hibernating.

Many organic materials can be used for winter mulching, including:

  • chopped corn cobs.
  • Straw.
  • pine needles.
  • bark.

Be careful not to use too much mulch on some plants. Fragile plants like berries or roses do a lot better with a thinner layer.

Use Cover Plants for Protection During Winter

Watering and mulching come before covering because they are more important to plant survival. But if you want to give your outdoor plants an even better chance at surviving the winter it is in your best interest to cover them.

You don’t need to spend money on expensive materials or devote a lot of time to covering your plants properly. Simply put some wooden or metallic stakes in the ground and lay some type of fabric material over them. Here are some good materials I recommend you use:

  • Shade Netting
  • Burlap
  • Bed Sheets
  • Table Cloth
  • Sheets Of Fabric
  • Blanket
  • Fabric Row Cover
  • Plastic Cover

What I like to do is use sheets of fabric and then cover them with some plastic sheets. The plastic helps trap more moisture and warmth, but I don’t recommend using plastic by itself. Remember to secure the covering to the stakes and the ground. I usually put a few rocks on the covering at the side of the plants. This isn’t as important, but you want to make sure the coverings won’t get blown away in the wind.

You can get a better idea about how to cover your plants this winter in the video below, along with very valuable tips.

The chicken wire is another highly effective covering method. You can achieve this by simply bending the chicken wire over the plants – thus, creating an arch. You can secure the setup by zip-tying the covering material to the chicken wire. This approach makes these cool little coverings that are portable and can be used on multiple plants.

We make our coverings, although we also buy good quality row covers for certain areas. We’ve spent a lot of time and money trying different row covers and ended up sticking with this Tierra Garden Easy Fleece Tunnel on Amazon. It costs a little more than some of the other ones we’ve tried, but far better quality.

Remove Cover During The Day

In some areas winter means extremely cold nights, but then the temperature will rise during the day. You want to watch the weather report and remove the coverings on the days that will see lots of sun and warmer temps. In warmer weather, plant coverings can actually do more damage than help. In the area we are, we remove the coverings most days during the winter.

Plant In Cloches For Cold Weather

Cloches are bell shaped coverings typically made of glass or a wire mesh. The glass cloches are especially useful for smaller plants. They will allow the sunlight and warmth to get to the plant while protecting them from snow and frost.

You can make your own Cloche or find one online that will work for you. The wire mesh cloches can get pretty pricey for quality ones, but they should last a lifetime . You would just need to cover them with a fabric material of your choice. Here are our favorite Cloches.

You can refer to a cold frame as some sort of small greenhouse with a transparent top or roof.  The roof absorbs energy, which it uses to keep the internal temperature warmer even at night time.

This process allows cold frames to help outdoor plants survive and keep growing during the winter season.

Cold frames are really easy to make yourself at home and are ideal for larger plants or covering multiple plants at once. Cold frames are usually built with some 2×4’s and a plastic covering

Cold frames are also great at keeping your plants in a humid environment if you build them right. This is an excellent way to germinate seeds and get your plants to start sprouting even during cold months when most people think it’s not possible.

For some outdoor plants, you might not be able to keep them growing lushly through the winter months. However, Cold frames create the right conditions for a gentle dormancy, which makes the outdoor plants more eager to resume growth, come spring, without any risk of frozen roots even if you’re in an area with below-freezing temperatures.

Not All Plants Make it Through The Winter

Know the fact that, no matter how you protect your outdoor plants, some plants really can’t survive any form of winter. So, it is better to bring them in during winter if you need them to survive.

If you have a greenhouse, that’s the best for every plant during the winter. But If you don’t have one, bringing tropical and exotic plants inside is your best bet. Even if you follow all the tips above, some plants just aren’t made to grow in cold weather.

It’s important to make sure the plants you want to survive the winter are even able to do so. We have actually started planting certain plants during autumn before winter hits because of how well they do in cold weather. Here is a nice list of Plants To Grow During Winter if you want to get a better idea of what types of plants will survive.

What To Do With Outdoor Potted Plants During Winter

Potted outdoor plants are the beauty of many homes, moving them in might not be an option during winter.

So what can you do?

If possible, using plastic outdoor pots is the best option. Stone pots or clay pots just can’t withstand the winter cold weather.

Bury the plastic pots in the soil if you can. The soil will help insulate the pot and the plastic pot is more effective at protecting the plants’ roots. If you can’t bury the pot, or you’re using stone or clay pots, do your best to wrap the pot with a material similar to the ones listed as follows:

  • Burlap
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Thick Fabric
  • Old Blankets Or Comforters

You will want to wrap a fair amount of material around the pots. The biggest concern with potted plants is that the root system is exposed to ambient temperatures when not in the ground. Wrapping them the best you can will help keep some of the heat from the plant inside the pot.

In summary, you must water, mulch, and cover the potted plants if you expect them to last the winter. To avoid all of this it’s best to bring them inside or store them in the garage. That’s not always going to work for everyone so just wrap the pot as best you can to help give the plant a fighting chance.

Good luck with your outdoor plants this winter.

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