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Autumn frost

Posted: Monday 18 November 2013
by James Alexander-Sinclair

This week we're promised some proper wintry weather. Part of me is looking forward to it and everybody loves a frost...


This week we're promised some proper wintry weather. Part of me is looking forward to it and everybody loves a frost: roofs are dusted with white, the grass is crispy underfoot and all the fading perennials glitter with ice. It's very lovely.

Were I more organised, I'd be able to tell you on what date the first frost arrived last year. Unfortunately, I've absolutely no idea. Mind you, it can’t be as bad (for most of you) as it is for a friend of mine in Scotland.

“When's your last frost?” I once asked her.
“In June usually,” she replied
"And the first frost of the winter?"
“September, usually."

I think that would make me very depressed!

Anyway: things to do now the frost has finally arrived… First, this the time to be digging up dahlias and bringing them in for the winter. The foliage will now be dark, droopy and rapidly on its way to becoming complete mush: there's no chance of any more flowers until next summer. Cut down the plant and dig it up: under the ground you'll find a conglomeration of dangling tubers which are storing an enormous amount of energy. The best thing to do is to clean off as much of the wet soil as possible and store the plants in a dry, frost free place until next spring.

Second, any tender perennial plants that you have in pots should really have been brought in yesterday - before the frost came - but hopefully it wasn't too hard and they stand a good chance of surviving. I have a fine looking Plectranthus that's looking very sad today, so I'm just off to stash it in my mother-in-law’s greenhouse for the winter. Third, and this is very positive news, this frosty snap will have done wonders for your parsnip crop. They need a bit of cold to give them that wonderful sweetness that makes them the perfect accompaniment to Sunday lunches throughout the winter.

See, not everything about frost is bad for the gardener.





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