Waking up to garden frost on a winter morning can be a real sight to behold, but sub-zero temperatures can spell bad news for certain plants. Sap stored inside stems and leaves can freeze and rupture plant cell walls which in turn will damage or kill the plant.
The good news is that there are ways of limiting the mayhem caused by naughty Jack Frost and his meddling icy fingers. Here are some hot tips to protect your garden from frost…
- Garden container-based plants should ideally be moved indoors but if you don’t have space, place them in a sheltered area of the garden and wrap the plant pots in bubble wrap. Group multiple pots together if you can, to provide mutual shelter. Plants placed in front of sun-soaking south-facing walls will benefit from the extra warmth they provide.
- Mulch around the roots of tender shrubs and perennials with copious amounts of organic matter. Use leaf mold or compost if you fancy, or you could just pile up fallen leaves. Straw is also a good shout for protecting fruit bushes and strawberry plants from garden frost.
- Cover delicate plants you can’t move with a horticultural fleece. This is a lightweight, breathable material made from polypropylene which is readily available in rolls from garden centres, DIY stores or from online shops. Double wrap plants and secure the fleece with string or pegs to prevent it flying off like a ghost during windy spells. Don’t be tempted to cover plants with bubble wrap – plastic has a tendency to scrunch up and trap water which can then freeze and damage the foliage and tender stems underneath. Lengths of horticultural fleece are the best option; they act just like frost blankets for plants.
- Despite their name, cold frames are designed to keep plants warm. Place any tender perennials inside to keep them toasty over winter and lay over an extra layer of fleece if temperatures really start to plummet. It’s also worth checking on plants every now and then to make sure plant pots don’t dry out. Don’t overwater though as this may cause roots to rot.
- Frost pockets* are dips or low-lying areas of a garden or allotment where cold air can collect. Try to avoid planting delicate plants in these areas, and definitely don’t use them as a place to shelter your container-based specimens.
* Not to be confused with the place where a snowman keeps his sweets.
- Certain starchy vegetables actually thrive in frosty conditions. Vegetables such as sprouts, parsnips and some members of the brassica family store up starch reserves during the warmer months. With the onset of cold weather, the plant will produce enzymes that break down the starch into sugar which in turn acts as an antifreeze to protect the plant’s cells. The added bonus for your dinner plate is that veg that has been kissed by a frost will taste sweeter.
- Unlike most of their brassica brethren, cauliflowers hate frosts and you’ll need to protect the exposed curds (the nobbly white bits) from frost damage. Cut a length of garden twine and secure the cauliflower leaves so that they wrap over the top of the vegetable to keep the curd cosy.
- In the UK there is a risk of sneaky late garden frosts happening right up until May which can easily catch out eager allotmenteers who have planted out early seedlings. Watch out too for emerging blossoms on fruit trees such as peaches and apricots as they are particularly susceptible to a sudden dip in temperature. Fleece them up and stay vigilant!
Do you have any other ways to protect your garden from frost? What do you think is the best frost protection for plants? Let us know in the comments.