The easiest way to protect your plants for the winter is to put them in a row, say 6 or 7 pots wide. You only want the row about three feet wide, so put that many pots in the row.
Then go to a building supply company and buy a roll of the wire mesh that is used for reinforcing concrete. This is pretty stiff material, and it has 6″ square holes.
What you are going to do is cut the wire mesh into sections about 7 feet long, but you’ll have to figure out exactly how long before you start cutting. What you are doing is making hoops that you will place over your row of plants. When you cut your wire mesh cut right in the middle of one of those 6″ holes. That will leave you 3″ prongs that you stick in the ground to keep the hoops in place. Overlap the hoops just a few inches.
Stick the cut end of the mesh into the ground and once the hoops are all in place, stretch a piece of “white” plastic over the top of your miniature hoop house. Weight it down on the sides with sand or other suitable material.
Stretch white plastic over the wire mesh and weight it down with sand, which seem to hold better than bricks. You can go to the feed store and purchase nylon feed bags and fill them with sand. When spring arrives, store the bags of sand in your shed or under a heavy tarp and you can use them again. If you leave them in the sun they won’t last more than a year or two.
Now. This is important!
Always use white plastic so the plants stay dormant all winter. Then when spring comes you have to start cutting some holes in the plastic to keep it from getting too hot under the plastic.
Or remove the plastic completely before the plants break dormancy. This is a judgment call. Don’t’ remove the plastic if the buds are really swollen and ready to open. You have to catch it before that happens.
You can also just leave the plastic in place until the danger of hard freezing is past, just make sure there are plenty of holes, and make them big enough for lots of air to get through. I usually make the holes about 24″ in diameter, but not on top of the hoop house. Put them on the side so the frost can’t settle in.
Most plants can handle a frost once they break dormancy. The problems occur when you have a hard freeze after they leaf out. Even then, many plants can even handle that, but it can harm others. Your goal is to keep them sleeping as long as you can, then you don’t have to worry about them.
Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at Freeplants.com and read his blog at Mikesbackyardnursery.com.
Building a Seasonal Greenhouse