Winter and the other "F" word.
Winter is on our doorsteps and as we prepare indoors for it by means of electric blankets and heaters, we need to also take precautions for the onslaught of it outdoors. Frost is extremely dangerous to our plants and being erratic and unpredictable we need to be observant as to the areas prone to it, the plants sensitive to it and the types of frost that (can) occur.
Frost ruptures the cell walls of our plants by causing the cell sap to freeze and expand, thus reducing the tissue to a pulp. Radiation frost happens during clear and calm nights but advection frost on the other hand needs air movement to blow a large, cold mass of air into the area. White frost occurs after the air has cooled to dew point when it can't hold moisture any longer and condenses to open surfaces. Ice crystals will then appear when the temperature drops to minus degrees. If the air lacks this kind of moisture you get frost damage that leave damaged plants black and it is hence known as black frost. Frost is mostly found within 2m of the ground level and therefore I urge you to still apply generous layers of mulch - an exercise you can continue throughout the year. Additionally you can cover sensitive and young plants with materials such as hessian or create mini micro-climates and direct cold winds away by installing screens in the right areas. Do all irrigation in time for plants to dry before nightfall. Once again we need to look at our plant selections.
Capetonians had a massive wake-up call this year what with the horrific water shortages and we finally see our indigenous floral kingdom come to its own. An indigenous plant is miraculously designed to withstand certain climatic conditions. Wouldn't your garden look better with plants that are thriving and look at home? So next time, before you go buying-to-replace dead plants, please read up on your region's wealth of keen growers. You won't be disappointed and it is anyway high time we all go "Proudly South African" - on plants too.
All the best,
The Gardening Eden Team
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