Protecting Vegetables from Frost
Here are a few methods we employ for Protecting Vegetables from Frost. A few people over the holidays said to me “I see the daffodils have sprung early this year, when can I expect my first box of veg” or “you must be loving all this warm weather, up the allotment”, and the simple fact of the matter is that were not loving it at all.
When the temperature drops below zero degrees, the water molecules which make up a vast majority of the structure of a lot of vegetables, with some types of lettuce known to contain up to 96 % water molecules, tomatoes up to 94% and cabbages up to 93%, freeze which will cause damage to and eventually kill the plants. Its not hard to tell when a plant is suffering from frost damage, the plants often go limp and have blackening leaves and will eventually wither and die. When you have vegetables in the ground and the temperature is dropping, this could could do some serious damage to your produce. But if like us, at the moment the only thing we have in the ground as I type, are broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) which is highly regarded as being the premier over wintering broad bean, and our strawberries which are a mixture of variety’s all pretty hardy when it comes to bad weather, then the frost can be one of your greatest weed killing allies. If you have ever dug over an allotment by hand you will know that it is lots and lots of fun. My knees never feel better than when they are bent next to a raised bed for hours, as I sting the hands of myself trying to work out what is a weed and what is not. Over winter the frost does all this for you, by freezing the water molecules and slowly killing of the plants and root system.
This is not the only reason why allotmenteers love a good long hardy frost, it also does wonders keeping the pest problem under control. Every wondered where all the insects go in the winter, well it really is fascinating some create their own antifreeze, some go into a state of suspended animation and hibernate the winter, but in truth a lot of them die, and this is important for keeping pest numbers down. So there u have it, two of us growers favorite things to complain about, weeds and insects and the frost is taking them on, for free, while were all lying in our beds.
If you have got plants in the ground that are susceptible to damage from frost and you think they might need a helping hand through the winter then there are a few ways of preventing the plants from seeing the worst of the cold.
Mulch – Mulch is a term that describes any layer of material that is placed on top of soil, many people believe that mulch is purely and organic material but the same term can be applied to any material (e.g plastic sheeting, PVC) that provides the following benefits. Mulch provides a lay of material between the sun and the soil. If the soil cannot receive sunlight then anything will find it difficult to grow in those circumstances, so it is a good method of reducing weed growth. As with light the mulch also traps heat and moisture allowing the soil to stay warmer and might allow for early germination and improved soil nutrient quality. Common examples of mulch often include tree bark, hay, grass clippings which will decay over time and help top improve the soil quality, through to PVC sheeting or recycles rubber pellets from old tyres which will not improve the soil.
Horticultural Fleece –One of the most modern and now common ways of protecting vegetables from frost is the use of horticultural fleece. This doesn’t take much explaining, its basically a vegetables way of putting on a jumper or wrapping itself in a duvet. The fleece can be applied directly over the vegetables and weighted down, or it can be applied the same way as you would put bird netting or chicken wire over a frame.
Covering –This is probably the simplest way of protecting vegetables from frost. Some plants can simply be protected by placing a vessel over them e.g. a plastic bottle which will act as a mini greenhouse or a flower pot, anything that will increase the temperature and keep the frost off.
It may be worth experimenting with different methods of Protecting Vegetables from Frost, to find the best that work for you in your position.
Whilst we have been fairly lucky with the rain here in Belfast other parts of Northern Ireland and the rest of the Uk have been totally destroyed with the torrential rain, many people lost their homes, businesses, farms and livestock. Our sympathy and good wishes go out to anyone whose lives have been affected by any of the floods, and we hope that this is the year that the World tackles global warming and realizes that we just cant keep going on living the way we are.