It's a battle for a lot of NZ gardeners, so now is the time to organise your frost arsenal. Big established shrubs and perennials have a much better chance of shrugging off a few freezes, but smaller plants, rooted cuttings and divisions need a bit more protection.
FROST FIGHTING TIPS
• If tender growth gets frosted, leave the dead foliage on the plant rather than cutting it off until the danger of frosts has passed. No point encouraging any more new growth.
• 3 litre Orange/Apple juice bottles with the bottoms cut out make great cloches/mini greenhouses. If you want something a little more elegant see www.thecompanyshed.co.nz
• If you’re worried a plant might get frost damaged, don’t put it where it gets morning sun first thing. Often it’s not the frost, but the quick thaw that kills them.
• If you’ve got plants in plastic pots waiting to be planted in spring, dig a hole in the veg patch and pop them in there, pot and all. The soil acts as insulation.
• Chemical protection includes products like Vaporgard and Liquid Frost Cloth, from your hardware store/garden centre.
• Frost cloth does work – but make sure you secure it down so it doesn’t blow away.
• Mulch is hugely helpful, and great insulation. Use grass clippings and compost, all kinds of organic matter...newspaper, pea straw, compost, bark...
• Mulching protects the soil from the weather and nitrogen loss, keeps weeds down, helps keep it warmer so plant roots don’t freeze. If the tops freeze off but the roots are OK there’s a better chance the plant will come away again in spring.
• Got baby plants to overwinter? Pop them under a veranda or on the porch...don’t overwater or the roots will rot. If they’re outside you could put them in a larger pot and pack pea straw or grass clippings around them as insulation.
• Get a couple of cheap polystyrene chilli bins from the hardware store to use for little seedlings. Even if only a couple make it that’ll do.
• Bring them inside. Try not to yell as people constantly trip over your annoying plant trays littering the kitchen or laundry...