How to Protect Tender Plants
Softwood cuttings are taken from soft, new growth at the tips of nonflowering shoots, produced in spring and early summer. Most root in six to eight weeks. Softwood shoots wilt quickly; take cuttings early in the day before the sun gets hot.
Step 1: Protect Plants From Frost
Plants in containers are easy to protect on unexpectedly cold nights in spring or fall. Small pots can be moved indoors, while covering crops in larger containers is an effective way to prevent damage. Half-hardy crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and runner beans, are particularly vulnerable to frost damage, even when acclimatized to outdoor conditions, and need protection. It is also worth covering many early spring sowings and leafy fall crops to improve their performance.
Cloches and Horticultural Fleece
Designed to keep out the cold, traditional cloches are made of glass, but plastic alternatives are easier to use and safer for crops in containers. Bell-shaped designs are suitable for covering a pot full of young plants, while longer tunnels are useful for raised beds and growing tables. Sheets or tubes of horticultural fleece will protect plants of any size; either support it on wires or stakes, or just drape it over plants.
Step 2: Overwinter Tender Plants
Most fruit and vegetables that are not hardy are grown each year from seed as annual summer crops. However, it is worth overwintering citrus trees and chili plants indoors, not only because they won’t tolerate the cold, but also because they produce welcome fruits in winter. Bring in plants before the first frost and place them in a bright room, such as a cool conservatory or porch.
Providing Suitable Conditions
Centrally heated houses are challenging because these plants don’t enjoy hot, dry air. Place them in a relatively cool room, away from radiators and drafts; and windowsills will be too cold at night in winter for many tender crops. Increase the humidity by placing pots on dishes or trays filled with gravel and water. Water plants sparingly and do not feed chili peppers during winter since they do not grow strongly in low light levels. Apply a winter citrus fertilizer every two weeks to citrus trees.