Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Preventing Frost Damage

Many parts of Britain have already experienced their first frosts – they were even recorded in Devon on the third week in September, according to Anne Swithinbank. It was a gentle reminder that we must be ready for harsher weather which will be on its way, as we edge further into October. I‘m waiting to move several pots of Canna‘s, that will come indoors once the foliage has been cut back by frost; Dahlia‘s will need lifting and moving indoors at this point, too, unless you live in milder parts of Britain, when they can be overwintered outdoors under a thick layer of mulch or straw. If you lost plants last winter, you may want to move some indoors as a precaution, then, if it is a cold winter, at least you won‘t lose all of your stock. Store them in labelled trays, in a cool frost free place, protected by a layer of multipurpose compost or similar – it is a great way to recycle old hanging basket or container compost.
I‘ll be listening intently to the weather forecasts, there are several ‘patty pan‘ squashes in the vegetable garden, which need a few more days to ripen, even though they are in a sheltered corner and partly protected, they need picking before the first hard frost.
You will also need to insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap. If you only have a few tender plants, divide your greenhouse, into two sections with a makeshift frame, putting your tender plants at one end and only heating half of the greenhouse, reduces costs. Keep the compost of plants in the unheated section slightly dry and cover them with a double layer of horticultural fleece to keep off the frost.
Autumn is also ideal for planting or re-planting herbaceous borders and is the traditional time for moving confers too, they establish rapidly when the warm, moist, soil encourages the roots to grow. Early in the month is the last chance to sow hardy annuals like ‘Larkspur‘ and ‘Poppies‘, you can wait until spring, but sowing now produces stronger, earlier flowering plants. Sow them in situ in warmer climates and protect them with cloches or fleece if the weather gets really cold. In cooler climates, sow in trays or modules, then grow them on in a cool, frost free, greenhouse or cold frame, with as much light as possible, transferring them to individual pots, when they are large enough to handle or the seed leaves appear.
Ventilate the greenhouse on warm days but remember to close the vents by noon, the warmest part of the day, so that the glasshouse retains as much heat as possible. By the time they are ‘hardened off‘ and planted out in their final positions in May, they will be bushier, stronger and earlier flowering than those you sown in spring. Sowing them now, then again spring, is a great way of extending the flowering season.
Finally, don‘t forget to cover your pond before the leaves begin to fall. Use fine netting, to prevent smaller leaves from getting through, the netting used to cover raspberries and other fruit crops is ideal and saves money too. Happy gardening!