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The first snowfall is just around the corner

20 December 2013
The first snowfall is just around the corner

The first snowfall is just around the corner if it hasn't arrived already, so prepare your plants now so they get through even the heaviest blanketing without a hitch.

It's not the cold you need to worry about: in fact snow does less harm than frost. It forms a thick insulating blanket over plants and soil, holding them in a cocoon where temperatures are fairly stable and winter gales can't reach. Mostly, the best thing you can do is leave buried plants well alone until the thaw.

But it's heavy stuff. Hedges are at risk, as layers of snow on top can splay out the branches dramatically but irreversibly. Upright conifers like fastigiate yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata')  and fruit trees can build enough weight of snow to break branches.

You can protect the conifers by loosely tying the branches in with string as winter sets in. The best treatment for recently-fallen snow on hedges and other trees, though, is an ordinary garden broom. It's a nice job on a snowy day to go round brushing the worst off the branches of vulnerable trees. While you're at it, sweep snow from greenhouse and especially polytunnel roofs, too, to avoid glass and frames caving in under the pressure.