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How to Protect your Garden from Frost

Fantastically frosty mornings and cold crisp evenings often make the winter months worthwhile. Whilst frost may be beautiful to look at it, it can cause an incredible amount of problems for gardeners across the country. Frost causes the water in plant cells to freeze, ultimately damaging the cell wall. Frost damaged plants are often easy to spot as their growth becomes limp, blackened and distorted. Some plants can protect themselves from frost damage; they have the ability to allow their cell contents to ‘superfreeze’. This means that the cell contents remain liquid even though they are below freezing point. Yet to do this plants must experience several days of cold weather before the freeze. This explains why even hardy plants can be damaged by a sudden bout of frosty weather. Most often frost damages plant growth as well as killing tender plants. Frost damage can be spotted immediately following freezing but unfortunately that is not always the case. However, there are many ways of minimizing the damage of frost and these simple steps should help you protect your plants.

1. Mulch the root areas of conifers, tender shrubs and evergreens with a thick layer of organic matter to keep the soil frost-free. This allows them to take up moisture during periods of cold weather and prevents them from becoming dehydrated.

2. A double layer of horticultural fleece is perfect for protecting plants if frost happens to be forecast.

3. We recommend that the previous seasons growths are left un-pruned over the winter months. This will provide valuable frost protection during winter as well as protecting the central crown of the plant.

4. Avoid applying nitrogen-rich fertilizers, as they are notorious for stimulating soft, sappy growth. This particular growth is especially vulnerable to frost damage.

5. Low-growing plants can be protected from frosty and wet weather by simply covering them with a sheet of glass or a cloche. They should also be surrounded with a layer of gravel or grit, which will ensure swift drainage.

6. Tender and container grown plants should be moved to a more sheltered position in the garden or even a greenhouse during the colder weather.

7. Fleece covered frames can be used to protect plants that are trained against walls or even tender plants that are growing in the open ground.

8. The crowns of tree ferns can be protected by insulating their trunks. We advise that they are either wrapped in layers of fleece or hessian stuffed with straw.

If unfortunately your plants do succumb to frost damage, it doesn’t necessarily mean to the end for them. Many plants will recover given time!

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