Spring is a time when you can often get caught out by an unexpected frost. We have had a couple of vicious frosts after relatively balmy days, and this can be lethal for plants that get caught and are unprotected too. How do you recognise the signs, and what can you do?
If wilting leaves appear with no good explanation or they have a water logged look, this can be a sign that your plant is suffering from frost damage and needs some help. Another symptom of frost damage can be the sudden appearance of brown areas on the leaves. You should also watch out for evidence that the new shoots on your plants are starting to die back. If the plants are spring flowering and their flowers don’t open completely or they become discolored and start to die off, then you can be fairly sure that frost damage has occurred.
Sadly, there is no treatment for frost damage. Once it has occurred you can do little to save your plant if the damage is severe. You should remove the damaged parts of your plant so it can concentrate on the healthier parts. It also makes the plant look a great deal healthier. You will need to take special care if there is a chance of more frosts as the plant will be even more than usually vulnerable. If the damage hasn’t been too severe you may be able to save the plant, however unless it shows signs of growth and recovery fairly quickly it is better to remove it and plant something new at a suitable time. You may not always notice frost damage immediately, especially if the frost has been a light one so you need to be vigilant for a few days after any frost, mild or hard.
There are a number of ways to protect against frost damage, one of the best ways to reduce the possible effects of a frost on your garden is to choose the most suitable plants for your climate conditions. If you are living in an area that is subject to frosts then you should always try and choose plants that are frost-tolerant. If you plant in areas that are less exposed and sheltered from frosts you will increase the chances of saving plants that might otherwise be killed by the sudden drops in temperature. However this is not always practical as it would restrict the variety of plants that we could have in our gardens which would be a tragedy.
If you suspect there is going to be a frost you can take precautions by protecting your plants. Anything in pots can be moved to a sheltered area where the frost won’t bite. You can protect your plants by wrapping them in Hessian, newspaper or garden fleece until the risk of frost has passed. It is a painfully slow process but worth it for any special or precious tender plants and shrubs.
There will always be times when a frost is unexpected and catches you out. If you are even remotely concerned, protect your plants anyway or you may lose huge parts of your garden for want of a few minutes spent taking precautions.
Lizzie Westerley has spent many pleasurable years developing her garden and her gardening skills. You can find more of her insights and information on how to make your garden equally magnificent at The Garden Magazine