Winter Protection

Winter Protection

for more information about mulches see the Mulch Guide

Winter Protection

Some plants are tough enough to withstand cold winter temperatures, while others may need some protection. Here are some recommended methods of sheltering your tender plants.


Some plants, particularly those with weak stems, may only need a little protection from strong winds. In this case, a windbreak is the ideal solution.

The best material to use is webbing or netting and polypropylene with 50 percent permeability. These materials will allow light, air, and rain to filter through to the plant, but will reduce the impact of strong winds and frost. To construct your windbreak, attach lengths of the material you've selected to canes at regular intervals. Zigzagging between plants will provide the most effective protection.


Cloches are best to cover rows or small groups of low-growing plants.

The sturdiest cloches are made from corrugated plastic or Plexiglas, which can be bent into an arch over the plants and held down with metal stakes as shown. This type of cloche will loose it's heat quickly in late afternoon.

You can also make a cloche by stretching plastic wire hoops. The advantage to this construction is that you can close off the ends by gathering the plastic together at the ends.


This form of protection is good for single plants. When choosing construction materials, select canes 5 feet or more in length and a loosely woven fabric such as burlap to allow air circulation.

  1. Place your canes in the ground forming a square around the plant you intend to protect. Leave a foot of space between the plant and the canes.
  2. Draw the tops of the poles together at the top to and secure with twine to form the framework of your teepee.
  3. Wrap burlap or other loosely woven material around the canes, securing with twine or twist-ties. Leave the flap open on the protected side of the teepee, closing it only when the weather is severe.
  4. If extra protection is needed, wrap straw around the plant before securing the fabric in place.


For hardy perennials, mulch is often the best protection. When applying mulch, remember that mulches with small individual particles, such as coffee grounds, should be applied in thin layers while a courser mulch such as straw or pine needles can be applied liberally. Here are some recommended mulches:

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Straw/Hay Cheap, readily available, adds organic matter to your garden May contain weed seed, insects and disease
Leaves Readily available, free, rich in nutrients. Can mat down or be too acid for some plants
Grass Clippings Free, easy to apply, good source of nitrogen. Can mat down and may contain weed seeds
Pine Needles easy to apply, attractive May be too acid
Wood Shavings Weed and disease free, easy to apply Can be acid and tends to tie up the nitrogen in the soil
Manure Great source of fertility and organic matter May burn plants if not well-rotted, sometimes expensive to buy, usually contains weed seed
Newspaper Easy to obtain and apply, earthworms love it Decomposes quickly and must be weighted down
Plastic Total weed control if opaque is used, warms soil well, heavy plastic is durable and can be reused Expensive, unattractive, adds nothing to soil, must be weighted down


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