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How to protect your garden against harsh elements

Posted on May 10, 2016

Weather can be a terrible enemy against the livelihood of your garden. Be it frigid cold or daunting heat, there are many ways we can work to protect our plants from anything Mother Nature may throw at us.

First, we are going to talk about how to protect your plants from cold weather:

1) Sadly, gardens are not as easy to maintain as artificial turf grass, and they cannot be brought inside by the whole when the winds get brisk. So, the next best idea is to make sure that it is provided with a healthy amount of mulch to insulate the roots. Mulch is an insulator that helps hold in heat and moisture. We all know the struggle of dry skin during cold weather, and plants suffer from the same travesty. Look at mulch as plant lotion. You garden will thank you later.

2)Try covering your plants with an old blanket, cloth or sheet before you head inside for the night. Then, remove the covering during the day so your plants can get vital sunlight. Doing this blocks the harsh cold air from penetrating your garden, which would be multiplied if it were not covered in the first place. The trick to this is to stake-up the covering, that way it is not touching your garden, making sure the plants can breathe and make sure not to damage your plants.

3) If you are crafty, make it a project to build a cold frame or a greenhouse (there is also the option of just buying one as well, much easier). Doing this will keep the heat in, allow the plants proper sunlight, all the while keeping out the cold.

If you wish to build this, bend thin rods of metal into loops, sticking them into the ground around the four corners of your garden. After doing this, place a clear plastic sheeting of any kind over the top, completely covering the plants. But, remember that your plants need proper ventilation. This can be done by making strategic openings in any part of the construction.

4) Something quite easy, but not always thought of, is to water your plants before a night of bitter cold as this will help your plants retain heat from the day. Doing this allows your garden to get as much from the water as possible because of the lack of evaporation potential. The only thing to avoid in this situation is taking this approach before a hard freeze. Such a thing could backfire and end up killing your garden rather than helping it.

Also, do not water your soil when it is frozen as this can add to the effects of such harsh cold.

5) If you have the means, try applying an artificial heat source. This is similar to building a makeshift greenhouse around your garden or covering it with blankets as mentioned above.

This is as easily done as using Christmas lights, which are the best option as they are powerful, but not to the point to where they damage the plants. Also, make sure to keep the source distance far enough away as too close of a proximity can damage your plants as well.

This heat is to only be applied at night in combination with a frame or a sheet covering. During the day, remove the heat and the cover to allow for ventilation and proper sunlight.

Now that you know all about how to protect your plants from the cold, what about harsh heat?

Unfortunately, compared to fake grass for a yard, an artificial garden would look silly. The best gardens are living masses that need water to thrive. This means it is best to plan out your watering ahead of time before the heat hits. If it is hot all the time, just start where you are and go from there. This is especially important with severe water restrictions.

How you can plan around this are as follows:

1) Mulch can be a great water saver. A four-inch-thick setting of mulch can retain a healthy amount of water. The cheapest of these retaining products are clay-based, such as bentonite or attapulgite, or, simply put, kitty litter. The litter works best if it dissolves in water and has a heightened effect if paired with compost and other soils.

2) Watering frequently and lightly may seem like a good idea, but this promotes shallow roots, making the plant less prepared for a possible drought. Watering in the evening or early in the morning is the best way to avoid evaporation and heated water due to the sun. If water is low, it is best to water well and on occasion. This supports root growth in the cooler layers of the soil unaffected by the heat.

3) Increase the shade on your plants. This can be done by using shade sails, tree shade (the hardier the tree, the better) or simply just using an old sheet or dust cloth laid gingerly on top of the plants. This keeps the harshness of the sun from damaging your plants but does only serve as a short-term solution as you do not want your plants getting accustomed to the shade.

4) One of your best options is to start from under the ground and up. To do this, make sure your soil improvement options are top notch. This can be done by using compost and good garden soil, as mentioned above.

Just as a regular lawn is hard to maintain in harsh heat, so are gardens (unlike artificial grass installation, which is becoming more and more popular). The severity of the weather can determine the amount of water needed. Make sure to check the livelihood of your plants compared to your environment. Food gardens can last well in a lot of heat. Wilting will cease during the night hours when the sun is gone. It is only if the wilting remains that you must take more precautions.

Growing plants in pots is a suggestion, such as a nomadic garden. These are much easier to move when the sunlight and heat become too much, but without the chill from the earth below, this can also become an issue.

5) Lastly on this list, but not last in all gardening advice is the importance of grouping plants together in a fashion that supports be best water economy. For example, groups plants needing low water together, and in contrast, group plants requiring more water together. This makes it easier for you to water and allows the plants to create an ecosystem of their own, ensuring better survival against the elements.

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