Garden frost

by Adam Pasco

Thankfully most of our garden plants are hardy enough to withstand frost and snow, but I live in hope that temperatures have dropped low enough to kill off some overwintering pests...

Frost on euonmyus leavesWhat a start to the year it's been, with sub-zero temperatures pushing up heating bills that many are already struggling to pay. But some good must have come out of this cold weather, surely? Frost turns pavements and roads into lethal ice rinks, but venture into the garden and you'll see another side to this menace.

Get outside early on cold mornings with camera in hand and you might be lucky enough to capture images of the ephemeral ice crystal patterns and designs left by Jack Frost. They're beautiful and unique, and as I admire them I always want to call up friends and invite them round to share one of nature's winter treats.

Thankfully most of our garden plants are hardy enough to withstand frost and snow, but I live in hope that temperatures have dropped low enough to kill off some overwintering pests such as the woolly aphid I discovered on my apple trees last summer. The problem is that frost isn't that discerning, and unless beneficial insects like ladybirds are even hardier, or have found a sheltered spot to hibernate, they risk being killed, too.

This hard weather will certainly have been challenging for hungry birds searching for food, but hunger will have forced blackbirds and others to search ever more intently for food, so I hope they've discovered a few more overwintering slugs and snails.

Frosted soilFrost will certainly have proved beneficial to my clay soil. Left roughly dug in autumn the frost will have penetrated deeply, helping to break down the clay particles and making the soil more workable in spring. So, even though the cold weather has only tempted me out occasionally to admire its beautiful creations, at least I know it's been lending a hand with soil preparations.

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Gardeners' World Web User 12/01/2009 at 19:43

Yes, you are correct after first frost it should kill most of the pests outdoors, or make then go into hibernating. -Brian

Gardeners' World Web User 14/01/2009 at 20:01

I found a red lily beetle yesterday while turning over some soil - seems not all the pests are being killed off.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2009 at 09:46

My astrantia has disappeared, are they slug resistant????

Gardeners' World Web User 08/02/2009 at 19:18

As I peruse the ice and frost outside, I do wonder if the weather is due to the Gardeners World Magazine. No sooner in there an article about the need for drought resistant plants, then we have two wet, cold summers, and when there is advice, as in the February issue, about all the things we should be doing in the garden at this time of year, most are impossible due to the arctic conditions. Please could we have articles about what to do in icy cold Februaries and wet summers so that we have mild Februaries and warm, sunny summers from now on?

Gardeners' World Web User 09/02/2009 at 10:36

Now, now Margaret. It we really had the power to influence the weather then I can assure you we would put in a request to bring back those 'normal' seasons that, if memory serves me right, we used to experience. What a challenge gardening now is. Hopefully Gardeners' World Magazine will continue to provide invaluable advice that you can rely on ... whatever the weather!

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