Soil Heaving

Much of the damage caused in our gardens during Winter is caused by frost which is a bigger threat to the garden than snow.

Frost freezes and it is the repeated and alternate freezing and thawing of the soil which can push shallow plant roots out of the soil, sometimes known as soil heaving. This leaves roots exposed to cold, drying winds as well as damaging susceptible flower buds. Poorly established or shallowly rooted plants such as strawberries and chrysanthemums can be prone to heaving so it’s a good idea to have a quick check in the garden to see if any plants have been lifted from the ground or if roots have been left exposed.

Exposed roots

Many of these effects can be counteracted by applying a thick layer of mulch like bark, wood chips or shredded leaves around shallow rooted plants towards the end of Autumn ahead of the cold, Winter spell.  As temperatures warm up in the Spring, be careful to keep mulch pulled slightly back from the crowns of perennials that are susceptible to rot. 

A thick layer of leaf mould compost applied in late Autumn

A cover of several inches of snow is actually a good insulator against the freeze and thaw cycles that heave plants out of the ground so be sure to welcome the white stuff this Winter.

Whilst frost may be damaging in the garden, the process of freezing and thawing itself has been said to improve and lighten soil structure making it easier for plants to root and thereby increasing productivity. The garden always provides a silver lining!

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