As I write this, we’ve had a week of hard frosts. I’m not a fan of the cold, any more than some of my plants are. Like them, I prefer to wrap up warm and hang in there for summer.
It’s the middle of winter, so the plants in my garden and the seedlings I’ve planted out recently, like brassicas, leeks and spinach, can all handle frost. Sure they’ll look a bit droopy while the frost is covering them.
Ways to protect plants from frost range from keeping tender seedlings under cover in a frost-free area, to covering plants in situ. In the spring, when I start planting out frost-tender seedlings I have a pile of loose pea straw handy and just lightly scatter this over the seedlings if a frost is forecast.
I leave for work before the frost lifts, and I know the pea straw won’t smother the plants if we get a warm day.
I use frost cloth on my trees.
I don’t bother with the thin polyester cloth as the wind shreds it and the frosts here are too hard to make it very useful anyway. I’ve found it’s worth investing a little more in the woven mesh frost cloth.
I have several lengths of it, all of which have lasted me for years.
I drape the cloth over my citrus trees for most of winter. The mesh lets air through, although I do keep an eye on the plants underneath just to make sure there isn’t any mildew starting due to decreased air circulation.
Frost cloth even protects my lime tree, which is quite frosttender, so it qualifies for two layers of frost cloth.
You can use old blankets or bed sheets in lieu of frost cloth, and I sometimes do as ‘‘emergency’’ covering (like in spring when the frost cloth is utilised covering tender asparagus shoots) but it’s a good idea to remove these as soon as the frost has lifted so the plant isn’t under a damp covering all day.
There are also frost protection sprays available.
I often use one as an extra ‘‘layer’’ of protection and find it effective but I never rely completely on it as it protects down to -3 and we often get frosts harder than that.
When your plants suffer frost damage, it’s tempting to prune off the damaged foliage, particularly if you like your garden to look pristine.
Be careful of this impulse; it’s easy to encourage new growth by pruning and if you get more frosts, this new growth will suffer a similar fate and the plant will be further weakened.
It’s better to protect what remains, and do the pruning in spring.
If you get caught unawares and one morning you see frost on frosttender plants, cover them before the sun starts to warm things up, to give them a chance to thaw slowly.
I’m not sure how scientific this is but it seems to have helped my garden on several occasions. I’ve also read advice about hosing frosted plants; I cannot say if this is a good idea or not as I’ve never tried it myself and am not likely to.
Any frost hard enough to freeze my plants generally also freezes all my garden hoses and pipes. Besides, I’m about as frost-tender as my lime tree, so while you may find me running around with frost cloth in the early hours, smashing the ice on the dogs’ and the chooks’ drinking bowls is about the only mucking around with water you’ll find me doing on a frosty morning.
Ways to protect plants from frost range from keeping tender seedlings under cover in a frost free area, to covering plants in situ.