Avoid Plastic Mulches with Cool-Season Crops
Some gardeners rely on plastic mulch for its ability to both battle weeds and insulate garden beds. But the inorganic material isn't right for all gardens, and should never be used with cool-season crops like root vegetables and lettuce. The plastic creates a shield over the soil, blocking water and air from reaching the crops. The trapped soil may become too hot during the summertime, causing plants to send out roots close to the soil's surface in search of nutrients, which eventually leads the plant to wither and die. Keep your cool-season crops healthy by choosing organic mulches like wood chips or bark instead.
Water Plants Before an Expected Freeze
An unexpected freeze can make gardeners panic about the state of their greenery. To help protect plants, water them one day before a projected cold spell, as long as the air temperature measures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The added moisture traps heat in the soil, which insulates the roots and keeps plants stronger in chilly weather. Remember that thirsty plants are much more susceptible to cold damage than well-watered ones.
Set Up a Plant Nanny
When life's responsibilities keep you ever-busy, it's easy to forget about the little things like watering the plants. Rather than letting your flowers wilt under the sun due to inattention, set up a plant nanny to keep your potted plants hydrated. All you'll need to do is stick the terra cotta stakes into the soil and refill the water bottle on top every week or two.
Prevent Garden Erosion with Mulch
Rain, melting ice, and wind make gardens—especially those situated on an incline—susceptible to erosion. Some easy-to-spot indicators of erosion include exposed roots, muddy puddles, or soil "downstream" from the garden, whether on the sidewalk or the lawn. If you see any of these warning signs, your plot may be at risk of destruction. Protecting your plant beds is as easy as adding mulch, which helps stabilize the soil. Choose a heavier hardwood or manmade mulch that won't blow away easily, so your garden will stay perfectly in tact.
Trim Hazardous Trees
Besides being beautiful and providing much-needed shade relief, trees also serve as valuable windbreaks, limiting the ability of sustained gusts to damage your fragile garden. Just remember that trees remain assets only so long as they remain healthy. Dead or dying branches offer no reward—only risk. To protect your plantings from the impact of falling, wind-blown branches, scan the trees nearest your garden, paying special attention to those whose limbs overhang garden beds. If you spot a small tree with branches that look ready to come down, you can likely handle the pruning yourself. For taller trees with thicker branches, play it safe and hire a local arborist or landscaping company.
Drill Down on Drainage
Usually, gardeners welcome rain, but if your soil doesn’t drain sufficiently well, there's a risk of downpours delivering too much of a good thing. After all, waterlogged soil deprives roots of necessary oxygen. If drainage doesn’t relieve the saturation level quickly enough, most plants die. True, there's no way to undo damage from a deluge after the fact. But over the long term, there's a lot you can do a lot you can do to protect your garden from future storms. Your best bet? Add compost to your soil on a regular basis. Compost provides numerous benefits, but not least is that it attracts earthworms, whose tunneling slowly but surely creates air pockets and channels that boost drainage dramatically.
Protect with Plastic
Storm winds responsible for knocking down power lines can do a fair amount more damage to the backyard garden patch, lest its pickings find shelter. Save the delicate plants that cannot be relocated indoors from potential uprooting or other damage by DIYing a windbreaker in preparation for a storm's arrival. Plastic sheeting secured with stakes can reduce the effect of winds on a budding garden, in some cases by as much as 60 percent!
Change the Way You Water
Prepare your plants for drought season by encouraging the development of strong roots. Doing so is as simple as adjusting your watering habits: Water less frequently, but slowly and deeply with the help of a drip irrigation system. Not only will your plants adjust to an irregular water intake before summer's heat wave sweeps in, but you'll see an improvement in your water bill as well.
Turn Over Terra Cotta Pots
You'll see this warning on many seed packets and plant tags: Plant after danger of frost has passed. It's sage advice any gardener would do well to keep in mind, which is why savvy planters wait until after the average last frost date to sow. Mother Nature, however, doesn't always play by the same rules so it pays to have backup plan to protect seedlings from the cold. In a pinch, a terra cotta pot can be turned into a frost guard. Upend an empty pot over delicate seedlings to save them from the chill, and remove it when temperatures rise to keep your plants growing.
Devise a Lean-To
The drumming of hailstones is a death knell for lush gardens. Garden beds can be protected by laying a tarp down over sticks or hoops staked into the soil, while vertical plantings require more creative defenses. Improvise a lean-to by placing a sheet of plywood against a house, fence, or trellis where plants are growing. If a hailstorm is accompanied by heavy winds, you'll want to secure the sheet of wood with something heavy to keep it from blowing away and causing further damage.
Rain or Shine
With these practices in place, you can have the peace of mind that your garden will stay intact and flourish.
Give the special gardener in your life a little love this holiday season! Go now to see Bob Vila's best gifts for green thumbs.