Coping with frost

Gardeners are often tempted to push the boundaries and try new plants that may be marginal in cooler climates. Selecting cold tolerant plants will provide the backbone of a low maintenance garden, however, there are ways to nurse frost tender plants through the winter. Trees and shrubs will often acclimatize and outgrow frost, as they get taller so protecting them for their first couple of years is often sufficient to establish them for the long term.

Here are some handy tips for minimizing frost damage-

  • A tent of hessian constructed around some wooden stakes will greatly assist above ground plants while a 10 to 15 cm thick mulch of chunky materials such as pine bark or wood chips will protect plants with underground growing structures such as bulbs and clumping plants.
  • Watering frost covered leaves early in the morning before the sun hits them will minimise any damage. The water helps to melt the frost before it explodes the plant cell walls.
  • Keeping moisture levels generally high during frost prone periods will also help to minimise damage.
  • Plants in pots can be moved indoors onto balconies, beside stone walls or under the eaves of a house as these spots will be several degrees warmer than more open positions.
  • There are also products available that can be sprayed onto foliage to create a protective barrier against frost.
  • Plants with underground rhizomes will often survive a frost even though the foliage will be blackened. Wait till all chance of frost is gone and cut back the damage and you will usually be rewarded with fresh new shoots.