Many parts of the country are experiencing a real freeze during this time of year.
Even temperate areas can experience a cold blast and the odd frost, which for cold sensitive plants can come as quite a shock.
Frost-tender and cold-sensitive plants require extra attention to ensure they survive winter, and if plants are damaged by frost don't panic.
As tempting as it might be, do not remove frost damaged parts, as this will only expose the plant to further damage on the next occurrence of frost. Leave damaged foliage to provide some protection to the reminder of the plant.
The only exception is for soft stemmed plants suffering cold damage, which may require cutting back immediately as damage may lead to rot. This is particularly important for succulents and indoor plants.
Late season when signs of new growth begin, damaged parts can be removed from woody plants, in most regions this will be early September.
Frost damage can be avoided with consideration to the microclimate. North facing areas are the warmest and are the best locations for planting cold and frost sensitive plants.
Avoid planting frost tender plants in low lying areas and large open areas as these are zones where cold air will sink.
Planting under eaves or using the protection of the canopy of evergreen trees are effective ways of sheltering cold sensitive plants from frost damage.
Alternatively place potted plants under a covered deck or bring them indoors when temperatures are expected to drop dramatically.
Protection can also be provided by constructing simple frames around plants. Once supports are in place it only takes an instant to throw a piece of cloth or plastic over them in the evening and remove covers in the morning. Specialist thermal control fabrics provide excellent protection, but any light fabric can be just as effective.
When frost is predicted, watering around plants the night before frost can protect plants from freezing.
During the night wet soil will release moisture into the air which raises the temperature and keeps plants from freezing.
Avoid any temptation to fertilise as this will encourage new growth, which will only lead to potentially further damage during the next frost.
The best defence, however, is offence, so select plants that are frost or cold hardy. Better yet, select plants native the region as they have adapted to local climatic conditions.
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