Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Premature Spring Clean Up - Frost Protection

It happens every spring. A week or two of warm weather and out come the rakes and the pruners to tidy up the garden. Some tidy so well, as though annual planting season is upon us already. But, watch out - the unpredictable weather can reek havoc and cause some damage to tender shoots emerging from the soil.

Bulbs like these Narcissus and...

these Scilla are quite tough and don't need frost protection.

Plants not to worry about so much: Scilla, Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Crocus....spring bulbs are quite resilient to frosts and unexpected freeze ups.
Even when fully in bloom, Crocus close their flower petals overnight and are resilient to frost.
In my opinion, it's best to leave leaf litter and some of the major clean up for the end of April. Better to play it safe, than sorry.

What to do if your garden is all tidy and you have tender plant material that needs protection?

When you have perennials like this Sedum,...
...Aquilegia or...

...Brunnera, which have flushed a fair bit of new tender growth already, you may want to cover them overnight.
Given we are experiencing a late spring, the most worrisome plants are tender perennial shoots that have emerged close to brick walls or on south facing corners of the garden. These areas often warm up much faster than other areas of the garden and cool down quickly in frosty weather.

If your garden is in an exposed area, cover plants with newspapers, old towels, garden cloths, old bed sheets or put back all those leaves you bundled in bags and bins for refuse pick-up. Secure cloth, or newspapers with rocks or stakes. You can even use light tarping. Just be forewarned, heavy duty tarps can flap about causing more damage to young shoots - better to use light materials to cover up.

Lee Valley has a whole Climate Control selection of materials which can aid in frost protection. Here is an example:
Frost Blanket from Lee Valley.
On the upside, our brief cold snap has been accompanied with precipitation.  This is a good thing. Snow and rain protect the tender growth. Cold air and frost however are the culprits and damage plants.

From your household: you can use large bowls, large pop bottles and empty milk cartons with their tops removed. These are great ways to individually protect certain plants, instead of draping the entire garden with bed sheets..etc.

Be creative. Just don't do more damage to the plants than what a little frost may do.

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