Frost or Snow – Which is worst?

Frost damage on a zucchini.
Frost damage on a zucchini.

At this time of the year all us veggie gardeners can really do is just sit back, make a pot of tea and watch our darling plants do very, very little.

We can give our onions and garlic a regular liquid feed so that when it warms up they’ll take off and that requires very little effort.

What we do have to face though are the twin ravages of frost and snow.

Of the two, frost is by and far the most damaging.

Frost damaged plants are easy to identify because the leaves become limp, blackened and distorted. Those big leaves of the squash family will be the first to turn and there is very little that you can do that is really practical.

The reason why frost is so damaging isn’t in the freezing process. It’s all in the speed of the thaw.

We all seem to think that if we have our plants out in the sun, the sunshine and warmth will somehow benefit it. Sorry, but we’re all wrong.

Frost damage on potatoes
Frost damage on potatoes

When frost hits it actually freezes the moisture in the cells within the plant and also weakens the cell wall.

On thawing the water expands, and if it’s too rapid, like it is when we put the plants in a warm spot, the cell wall will break and the damage is done.

So to protect your plants if they get struck by frost, the first course of action is defence.

First build up the mulch around the plant. This keeps the the warmth in the soil and acts like a solar blanket that sucks up what little warmth that there is.

Then build a little igloo of white cloth or plastic that acts like a greenhouse. This techniques works well with your herbs and to be honest, that’s all I ever have used it for.

I’m a big believer in adjusting what we grow and working with the seasons rather than trying to overcome them.

Snow on the other hand barely does any damage at all and it can actually be very beneficial.

The main damage of snow occurs on large plants that can lose branches due to the very weight of it. If you’re worried about that simply shake the branches until they’re free of the burden.

Snow can also damage the roof of your greenhouse, so look out for that if you have one.

The benefit is that with a coating of snow, your plants and soil are actually protected from the frost. It’s the difference between putting a plant in a freezer – frost or putting one in an esky – snow.

Category: Grow

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Article by: Mark Logan

Former photojournalist at the CWD, Mark Logan has mixed together his love of technology with his years of experience as a journalist and photographer to develop the Orange Post. The Orange Post is his baby. A baby whose gestation involved countless ideas, numerous bouts of indecision, an infinite number of hours cursing free software and more than one bottle of wine. Whilst he's not trying to cajole people into writing for the Orange Post, he's attempting to sharpen his vegetable gardening skills. He lives in a strangely shaped house in Millthorpe, loves ignoring recipe directions, dabbles in web design for fun, frustration and profit and is constantly in a battle of the wills with his dog Fergus