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  3. A Comprehensive Guide To Cold-Climate Gardening

A Comprehensive Guide To Cold-Climate Gardening

Gardening is a very wholesome and rewarding hobby, and it shouldn’t be limited by the climate you live in. We think of plants as needing loads of sun and warmth, but there are plenty of gardening methods to be used in lower temperatures. This is important in naturally cold areas as well as during the winter in the UK. This is our guide to cold-climate gardening.

Soil preparation

Soil is the foundation of good gardening in any climate, but working with soils in a cold climate can take some extra care. First of all, you should understand your soil type and how to work with it. Here is our guide to different soil types. Once you know what you’re working with, you might need to add some soil amendments to keep your soil and plants healthy. We also have a guide to using soil amendments to improve your soil.

An important part of caring for soils in cold climates is mulching. Covering your soil with an organic substance helps to protect the soil and roots from dramatic temperature fluctuations. 

Plant selection

Some plants naturally occur in colder climates and are therefore well adapted to lower temperatures. Here are some suggestions for plants to grow in cold climates:


The growing season in cold climates is usually shorter than in warmer areas. This means there are various factors to consider to protect your plants. For example, familiarise yourself with your local frost dates so that you know when the first and last frosts of the season tend to be. Planting too early can expose delicate seedlings to frost; planting too late can mean your plants won’t be mature enough to survive the winter.

Extending the growing season

Because of the shorter growing season, gardeners in colder climates may use methods to extend their growing season. For example, sowing seeds indoors. If you start your plants inside, this gives them more time to grow safely before the frost has ended.

Greenhouses are another method of extending the growing season. Well-regulated greenhouses can grow healthy plants throughout the year without the risk of frost damage to young seedlings. Depending on the size of your garden, a greenhouse could house large, mature plants that wouldn’t normally grow well in a cold climate.

Cold frames are another option for extending the growing season. They are smaller than greenhouses and therefore more accessible. Cold frames are small structures with glass tops that can hold in heat and protect your plants from frost, allowing you to plant out your spring plants a bit earlier.

Protecting your plants

Growing plants that are sensitive to frosts in a cold climate requires some winter protection. The simplest way to protect your plants is by bringing them inside for the winter. This method works best for potted plants that are small enough to fit inside your home.

For bigger plants and those planted in the ground, there are some ways to protect them against frost by physically covering them. For example, garden fleece is a popular method. Prop up the fleece with bamboo poles (or other supportive structures) so that it doesn’t interfere with the plant too much. Make sure to temporarily remove the wrapping in milder weather; this avoids rotting.

Another method used to cover tender plants is packing them with straw. For shrubs and tree ferns, this means covering the crown of the plant. To protect climbers from frosts, straw can be packed into the lower stems.

Watch your watering

Plants don’t require as much water in colder weather because the soil doesn’t dry out as quickly. Therefore, you should be careful not to overwater and create waterlogged conditions.


While cold-climate gardening may require a bit more effort, it is still very possible and incredibly rewarding. Follow these tips this winter for a thriving garden.

Updated on December 13, 2023

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