Turn to straw, soil and fleece

We have a few perennial salvia cultivars whose extended, colourful summer presence is valued, so losing one variety to frost prompted winter protection for all.

By Tom Pattinson
Sunday, 17th February 2019, 3:11 pm
Artichoke crowns need protection. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Artichoke crowns need protection. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

The basic approach amounts to earthing-up soil over the crown of each plant, but if there’s straw to hand, lay a double handful over the plant and draw soil over that.

Globe artichokes demand space for their huge silvery-grey leaves and giant flower spikes, but we love them for the sleep-over facility the flowers offer bees and butterflies, not forgetting the delicacy tasty sepals bring to the dining table.

Amazingly, for such a robust-looking plant, the crown is susceptible to frost so it too benefits from straw and soil protection.

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When we introduced a pair of standard bay plants, grown in containers, to paved areas at the heart of the raised vegetable beds, it was clear they’d need to acclimatise so they spent the first winter in the cold greenhouse, their heads wrapped in fleece.

When spring arrived, they went outside, along with the message – toughen up. That was eight years ago and they have survived, but when a -4C frost is forecast, sack barrow for transportation and cold greenhouse come into play.

Two permanent residents of the cold greenhouse, a peach tree and grape vine, are fully hardy and in no need of protection. It’s the plants stored over winter and others encouraged into growth that look for a helping hand.

This is offered in the form of fleece, sheets of which are lightly spread over them. Potted strawberry plants, chrysanthemum stools with young shoots, onion, leek and lettuce seedlings, and polyanthus blooming in pots, all benefit from the duvet effect it offers from early afternoon to late morning.