Frosty fixes

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - GARDENING -

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.

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