‘Can be fatal’ How to ‘protect’ plants from first frost now

‘Can be fatal’ How to ‘protect’ plants from first frost now


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Frost can cause serious damage to some plants if they’re not properly protected over the cooler months. Kate Turner, Miracle Gro’s Gardening Guru, has compiled her top tips ahead of the first frost, to help Britons protect their plants and prepare before the winter months.

Causes and impacts of frost damage on your garden

Kate said: “Frost is caused by cold, clear, still nights when the air drops below freezing.

“You can get a ground frost (affects lawns and roots) and an air frost (affects stems, leaves, flowers and fruit).

“Water in the plant’s cells freeze, expand, and then burst leaving the plant unable to take up water and nutrients.

“When soil or compost freezes for any length of time then roots are unable to take up water and the whole plant will show signs of drought and may eventually die.

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“Short-term frost damage can often be reparable but rapid thawing can be fatal as can long-term extreme frost.”

Signs of frost damage

Black scorching and brown patches on leaves are tell-tale signs of frost damage.

Wilting, and shrivelling leaves turn black and the stem of the plant tips over. Gardeners will also notice plants being pushed up from the soil in the ground.

Hardy plants that can survive frost

Tender and exotic plants such as bananas, cannas, dahlias, tomatoes and courgettes are the “most susceptible to frost” and will need the most attention to help keep them protected.

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How to protect plants from frost

Kate suggested bringing any tender plants inside before the risk of frost.

She said: “As for outside, group containers together and near a wall or under trees and shrubs, and avoid planting in a frost pocket such as at the bottom of a slope.

“Be wary of planting susceptible plants in an east-facing situation, as the early morning sun can cause rapid thawing.

“Cover your plants with horticultural fleece, easily found in garden centres and DIY stores or wrap pots in bubble wrap to help keep heat in over the colder months.

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“To protect soil and plant roots from freezing and help retain moisture, mulch plants in thick borders with Miracle-Gro Fibresmart mulch.

“Another tip is to leave pruning of plants such as penstemon, salvias and fuchsias until late spring to allow the older growth to protect the central crown.”

Protecting lawns

Lawn food with high potassium is a brilliant help for grass at this time of year as it protects against frost by toughening up the grass.

Don’t use a high nitrogen lawn feed or plant food, however, as this encourages soft sappy growth that is easily damaged by frost.

Seaweed tonic is also great as seaweed helps plants to “strengthen up and aids in frost protection”.

Treating frost damage and watering during frost

Kate said: “Don’t prune out damaged growth until the risk of frost has definitely passed, otherwise you risk exposing any new growth to damaging spring frosts.

“It’s never too late to wrap fleece around your plant.”

One of the problems with frost damage is that plants become dehydrated, so be prepared to do some watering once the frost has passed.

After watering, the gardening expert recommends adding a layer of mulch around the plant to keep the moisture locked in and protect it.

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