Preventing and Treating Frost Damage

If it is important to know the causes of frost damage and how it affects trees and plants, it doesn’t mean that it is unavoidable. In this article, we are sharing a few tips so you can prevent and treat frost damage in your garden.

Preventing Frost Damage

There are a few things you can do to protect your trees and plants from frost damage.

If you live in an area regularly affected by hard frosts, you can choose plants and trees that are more suited to grow in tough conditions and are more resistant. Check out the RHS Plant Selector.

If you know there are areas where the frost is particularly strong (‘frost pockets’) you can choose to position trees and plants away from these areas and plant in warmer, sunny spots.

For evergreens, conifers, tender perennials and tender shrubs, you can prevent the ground from becoming frozen by mulching the root area with a thick layer of organic matter.

If you have plants or shrubs in pots, move them in a more sheltered part of your garden. You can also protect the plants by wrapping the pots in bubble wrap or protect the whole plant/shrub by wrapping it in horticultural fleece.

Tender perennials (dahlias, pelargoniums, fushias…) should be lifted before the first frosts and move to a greenhouse or a more sheltered position.

Avoid using nitrogen-rich fertilisers as this can stimulate soft, sappy growth, which is particularly vulnerable to frost.

Treating Frost Damage

Getting caught out by frost is very easy and sometimes you cannot avoid frost damage. Here are a few things you can do to treat plants and trees affected by frost damage.

Once no more frost is expected, you can prune out growth that has been damaged up to an undamaged bud or sideshoot.

After pruning, apply a fertiliser (once that has a general purpose) so you can encourage strong re-growth.

Fences or hedges can sometimes cause frost pockets. You could either remove some of the lower part or create a gap to improve the drainage of cold air.

Check the ground around young trees and shrubs and re-firm the ground if you find that frost has lifted them.

If the foliage of tender perennials has been blackened by the frost, you can still protect and store the roots and encourage re-growth.

If your garden lacks shelter, you could consider creating some, by planting a line of trees to break the wind for example, or use a greenhouse for your younger shrubs and plants.

Many plants and trees can be very resilient so it’s important not to give up on the ones that have been damaged by frost. Recovery may take time and may not happen before early summer.

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