During April we all look forward to the warmth of sunshine and longer days returning, but it’s not unknown for snow to fall as late as the Easter weekend, and of course, being Britain, one thing you can never be 100 percent sure on is the weather. With this in mind, it is essential to be ready to protect newly emerging plants from damage when gardening so you don’t get caught out by a late frost. This is especially true for any new plants you might have just bought that will have possibly growing in different conditions or undercover and aren’t acclimatised to the local weather.
Frost can spell disaster for many tender varieties of summertime favourite from grow you own tomatoes and peppers, to popular bedding plants like Fuchsias and Pelargoniums. Even large established shrubs can suddenly be knocked back and suffer if they’ve already come in to leaf.
This year, we’ve seen plenty of Camellias bursting in to bloom only to have those early pioneer blossoms finished off early by some really chilly nights. Here’s some practical and low cost tips to help avoid getting caught out.
Keep and eye on the weather forecast – so you can spring in to action if needed
With the potential of wide temperature swings you need to be ready, and don’t be fooled by any sunny days – these are usually followed by frosty nights.
Don’t be tempted to plant too early
Shelves in garden centres may be filling up with flowers, but be careful if any are tender varieties, or simply hold off purchase until frost risk has passed.
READ MORE: What to plant in your garden: Mark Lane’s ‘seven principles’ for choosing and placing flowers
Use lemonade and milk bottles
Cut off the bottoms and these are perfect to place over the top of newly planted tomato plants or tender bedding, acting like a mini greenhouse to keep them safe and sound.
Use ppturned flower pots
For large plants or even patio planters place an upturned garden tub or, large flower pot or buck over the plant or plants in question. If it’s going to be really cold, take an empty old milk or lemonade bottle and fill with warm/hot water and place it under the pot too.
It will gradually release the warmth over a few hours to create a warmer bubble of air under the pot.
Early emerging perennials and herbaceous plants like Peonies and Bleeding Hearts could easily be ruined by a sharp frost.
Make sure your mulch on beds and borders in kept well topped up as we come out of winter in to the spring, affording the early new shoots an extra layer of shelter as they break soil, as the mulch will insulate and still be covering them in the early stages.
When you want to tidy up the garden after winter and have a bit of a prune and tidy, consider when your usual last frost date will be, and aim to be just a couple of weeks before this for sensitive plants.
Last year I was tempted and pruned back my lavender too early and nearly got caught out as the new growth was stimulated by this annual trim and came on too early, then it got a real knock back.
It bounced back but looked awful for a month or more, so this year, I’ll be heeding my own advice and trimming it back toward the end of the month.
This is the final tip, set an alert or alarm on your mobile phone for some point early in the evening, or earlier if possible if you’re not out to remind you to check if you need to cover the plants, and make sure you actually go and do it.
It’s no good closing the greenhouse door after we’ve had a frost, but it’s amazing how many people simply forget. Frost alert and weather apps are also available to download and let you know if chilly weather is forecast too.