Frost – it's pretty, it's bracing and it can wreak havoc on your prized plants. Here are some top Plant Frost Protection tips from our Gardening Angels to keep frost off your plants and help them survive the winter..
When frost hits, it can freeze the water in plant cells and damage their cell walls. When the sun rises and defrosts the leaves, plant cell walls can completely rupture! By wrapping plants with a plant frost protection fleece, also known as horticultural fleece, you can protect them from the cold whilst still allowing light, water and air to reach them. Find out more about picking the right frost fleece with our handy guide.
Don't let frost ruin fruit and veg before they've had a chance to ripen! Pick anything that has yet to ripen, such as late-blooming chillies and tomatoes, before the frost hits and ripen it off the plant.
Enlist the help of a banana, apple or fully ripened tomato to assist with ripening. These release ethylene that speeds up the ripening process. Put these together in a bag or cardboard box (or a sock drawer for the traditionalists!) and check up on them every few days.
Alternatively, a ripening cover can also be used to cover your plants, allowing air and moisture to reach your plants whilst retaining heat that will speed up the ripening process.
Plants in pots are particularly vulnerable to frost damage as the Cold weather can be devastating for their roots. If roots freeze, they will be unable to take in any water, causing the plant to die. By wrapping plant pots in a Plant Pot Frost Cover you can protect roots from freezing temperatures.
Group potted plants together and wrap with bubble polythene or straw for additional plant frost protection. Cover them as a group with a Frost Protection Cover or even bury the containers themselves in the ground up to the rim to make the most of the natural soil temperature.
Keeping a garden tidy serves many purposes. Fallen debris, such as twigs, branches or dead leaves, can cause damp damage to underlying plants, so use a handy leaf picker to move these to your compost heap.
Should winds pick up, a tidy garden leaves fewer projectiles to be blown around, minimising the risk of damage to other plants.
Plants do not exert as much energy over winter and will retain water for longer. Outdoor plants will generally not need watering throughout the winter. With indoor plants, water less frequently to avoid overwatering and waterlogging soil, as this can lead to root rot.
If you are using an automatic watering system, reduce the volume and frequency of watering. Try to water plants in the morning so that they have time to absorb the water, as any excess water could freeze overnight.
Remember, it's not just frost you need to look out for! Freezing winds quickly dry out plants and soil, causing scorch damage. Set up a windbreak using either mesh or gardening fleece to help keep trees and plants healthy. Don't forget; plenty of mulch around their bases will also help retain soil moisture.
Winter is a tough time for garden pests, but don’t let them ravage your plants in their quest for survival! Whilst snails will hibernate during the winter, slugs can still be found slithering around whenever the temperature is over 5°C. Organic slug pellets and Slug and Snail Shocka will repel slugs from plants by creating an abrasive barrier; so they will be forced to seek sustenance elsewhere!
Mulch is a composition of organic material such as straw, compost, bark chippings or decaying leaves that can be applied to the base of outdoor plants to retain soil moisture and protect roots from the cold for the ideal tree frost protection.
To avoid rodents taking up residence in mulch, wait until mid-November to apply, as decreasing temperatures will have already forced these pests into hibernation elsewhere.
Leafy crops, such as salad leaves, chard, chicory and parsley, can last well into winter with the right frost protection. Cover plants with frost protection garden fleece or a cloche to keep it safe from cold and frosts. These can also be grown indoors, so consider moving your seedlings and plants to an electric heated propagator.
When planting up vegetables over winter, such as leeks or brassicas that have been started off indoors with a heated propagator, ensure they are hardened off before planting. ‘Hardening off’ is the process of gradually acclimatising a plant to its growing environment to avoid it going into shock. As temperature decrease, this process must be carried out more gradually.
If you have any tips or questions about winter frost protection, frost blankets or general garden care, feel free to call us on 0845 602 3774 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Gardening Angels are always happy to help and love to hear about your experience of winter growing!