Sunderland Echo

Why the presence of frost can prove positive

- WILDSIDE by TOM PATTINSON

Weatherwis­e, we’ve experience­d it all recently. More than enough rain to keep the nearby river in flood and create no-go areas in the garden.

Frosts to test the hardiness of our toughest plants, and a high windchill factor throughout. The arrival of hail, sleet and snow completes our unwanted meteorolog­ical experience, even though it highlights the variegated shrub foliage.

We might well wonder whether any good comes from such adverse gardening conditions! Surprising­ly, there are positive aspects to be found in the presence of frost.

In a mild winter, garden pests stand a greater chance of survival, but not when it is severe and prolonged. A combinatio­n of this and the garden bird effect, where insectivor­es are constantly searching for the eggs and pupae of pests, represents a positive start for the season ahead.

We gardeners can also benefit from the rock-hard soil conditions frost brings to ornamental borders. They can be accessed for maintenanc­e without causing the

damage to soil structure that would occur, were we to plod through them in wet conditions.

We recently took advantage of this on days when a max/min thermomete­r in the unheated greenhouse recorded minus Celsius figures.

First came the final pruning of buddleja, lavatera, escallonia and remaining roses situated in a long border, then I welcomed local tree surgeon Andrew, who reduced the height of a tall silver birch (Betula pendula) and tackled one side of the beech hedge. It’s now thirty-plus centimetre­s less in width, there’s more walking space along the adjoining pathway and the top will be more accessible when clipping time arrives.

There’s good reason to welcome winter frost if you’ve heavy clay soil. It can play a key role in breaking down solid clumps over time, if the land is dug in advance to expose large surface areas. This, in conjunctio­n with the incorporat­ion of natural materials, organic matter, composted material, gritty sand, lime, etcetera will improve the soil structure and unlock a rich mineral content in the process. The final point in defence of frost relates to our physical and mental health, for the duration of this pandemic and beyond. Anyone currently pursuing a daily outdoor activity, be it a stroll in the garden, walk around the block, running, or riding, will confirm that limited exposure to the elements brings a feelgood factor. Medical opinion backs this up. So, I’m all for wrapping up warmly and getting out in the garden, whatever the weather!

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 ??  ?? Snow-covered Aucuba ‘Crotonifol­ia.’
Snow-covered Aucuba ‘Crotonifol­ia.’

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