Preventing Frost Damaging Your Plants.

By: Susan Sportman

A frost happens when the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees centigrade. It is destructive to plants in two ways, water is rendered unavailable to plant roots and the cells of sensitive plants are ruptured. These dangers are linked with the severity and duration of the frost as well as the constitution of your plant, in Britain we leave our Roses vulnerable over winter, but in some parts of Scadinavia and N. America straw or sacking protection is crucial.

Late spring frosts which occur after growth has started are the most damaging of all. The danger signs are clear skies during the evening, a northerly wind which decreases at dusk and a settled dry period during the previous few days. The risk to a plant is reduced if there are overhanging branches above, other plants around, heavy soil below and the coast nearby. In frost-prone locations avoid planting fruit trees and delicate shrubs. Give some form of winter protection for choice specimens.

Frost pocket: A frost pocket is a place which is abnormally susceptible to early autumn and late spring frosts. It occurs where a solid barrier exists on a sloping site, substitute this with an open barrier which allows air through. A frost pocket is also formed in the hollow in the bottom of a sloping site.

Wind: The spectacular effects of a gale are renowned, broken branches , knocked-over pots etc. But the consequences of persistent winds are less well known, lop-sided plants due to the death of buds on the windward side, and underdeveloped growth due to the cooling and drying effect on the growing point. On exposed sites a windbreak is probably necessary, but never use a dense screen. A wall or closed fence will create down-draughts on iether side and plants will be harmed. A hedge, on the other hand, will gently reduce wind speed for a distance of 15 - 30 times its height.

Rainfall: An average annual rainfall is 34 inches in England. Unlike some other areas of the globe there is no distinct rainy season, but October to January is usually the wettest period. The driest region is the Thames Estuary (20 inches), the wettest spots are the mountains of Wales and Scotland (175 inches). The U.K record, however, belongs in the Lake District (275 inches) in 1954 at Springkling Tarn.

A drought is a period of 15 consecutive days with no measurable rainfall, and droughts do occur at fairly regular intervals in Britain. Thorough watering is necessary at such times, or else plants will suffer or die. Snow is certainly a mixed blessing, a blanket of snow can protect plants which would well be affected by arctic-like winds, but heavy snowfalls can damage or break the branches of evergreens.

Altitude: The height of a garden has an effect on the general climate. For every 600 ft. increase in altitude, the average annual temperature drops by 2 degrees and the start of the growing season is delayed by 3 days. Solar energy decreases while both rainfall and wind speed gets worse.

If you can't manage to protect your plants because you iether have not got the time or you are not sure what to do, you can always think about hiring a gardener or tradesman to do the work for you.

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A fantastic quantity of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things have become harder to do. I have decided to use a tradesman instead and let them do the work for me.I do still do a bit of pottering around my own garden.

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