Protect plants from frost

If you are one of my readers who are preparing for Winter, then here are some tips to protect your plants from the frost!

It is getting mighty cold here in Zurich, and I’m not actually preparing my garden for winter because my balcony is very tiny. But if you are someone with a large garden then I’m sure you will benefit from my suggestions!

Frost can cause the water in plants to freeze, which breaks down the cell walls. The result can be a browned, soggy or scorched appearance and if tender, the plant may die. Early spring frosts can kill new growth and reduce fruit crops. Snow is often less damaging because it acts as an insulator, but tender plants still require protection from it.

Which plants need to be protected? 

Tender shrubs such as bay, pittosporum, myrtle and tree fern. Tender perennials such as dahlia, pennstemon, and agapanthus. Tender climbers – passion flower, evergreen shrubs container plants, fruits and vegetables.

When to do it?

October or November or wait until frost is forecast. Fruiting plants with the exception of figs, which do not need to be covered until they begin to produce blossom buds in early spring.

Attractive protection

Hessian looks rustic, so makes a pleasing wrap for shrubs. Hazel stick teepees are smart too: pack the plant with straw, then wrap hessian around the teepee. Alternatively, coil bundles of a lengthy grass around it. Tender perennials can be cut back and covered with straw over which a wooden cloche is placed. (a cloche is a small translucent cover)

Tender shrubs

Pad the main branches with straw secured by netting or string, then encase the whole plant in insulating material (hessian and biodegradable fleece are eco friendly) During rainy spells, cover with plastic, remove when dry, to prevent the plant from sweating and rotting)

Evergreen shrubs

Apply mulch around the base of the plan

Hardy shrubs and trees

Gently shake the snow off weak branches so they do not snap

Tender perennials

If large, wrap in hessian, cover small plants with a dry mulch. If the plant has woody stems, place a hat of wire netting over the plant and sit the mulch atop this, to prevent rotting. Hardy perennials can still be bitten by frost. Wait until spring to cut them back, as the years growth provides protection.

Tender climbers

Insulate the base of the plant with fleece or hessian

Container plants 

Move to a sheltered spot and swathe in bubble wrap, put small pots in a cold frame.

Fruit 

In early spring, fruiting small trees and bushes require a shield of fleece or hessian on nights when frost is forecast. Remove during the day so pollinators can reach the blossom. Young vegetable plants and strawberries need the protection or waterproof cloches or a ploy tunnel in early spring. Remove in mild weather to prevent rotting.

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Plant of the month – Passionfruit

The reason that i decided on passionfruit as plant of the month, is because a friend of mine recently sent me photos of her passionfruit vines that she grows on her balcony and they just look divine!!
The photos that i have attached at the end are actually the photos she sent me.
Passionfruit are one of the most bountiful backyard crops.
For my Australian friends – Spring is a good time to get started with planting a new vine or to give one that’s already growing a helping hand.
Passionfruit can be grown from seed.‘Nellie Kelly’, a grafted passionfruit variety that originated in Victoria, Australia which is the best choice for our gardens.It has large white and purple flowers and purple black fruit, which it produces without a pollinating variety, so there’s no need to grow two vines.

Nellie Kelly’ is grafted onto a vigorous understock called blue passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) to give it tolerance to cold and to soil-borne disease. This understock occasionally creates trouble for gardeners when the fruiting vine is lost and the understock begins to grow in its own right, often suckering from along its extensive root system. Digging in or around vines can also cause suckering.

You’ll know if you have suckers growing from the understock as its leaves, flowers and fruit are very different from ‘Nellie Kelly’. Instead of large, lobed, bright green leaves you’ll find smaller leathery green leaves. Pretty blue and white flowers appear rather than the large white and purple blooms and, the clincher, inedible orange fruits appear rather than the mouth-watering black passionfruit you were expecting.

For good growth and lots of fruit, plant vines in a sunny, frost-free spot and lavish them with care and attention. Passionfruit vines develop extensive root systems to fuel all that growth and fruit production, so allow plenty of room for roots to grow. As well, keep the surrounding area free of weeds and competing plants, including grass. Also give the vine space to climb. One passionfruit can reach at least 2.5m across and several metres high. An ideal spot to grow a vine is along a wire fence, across a balcony, or over a pergola where they provide year-round shade. If you want to grow a vine along a sunny wall or fence, install some wire, trellis or mesh as support for its tendrils.

Keep the root system in mind when feeding a passionfruit vine. Spread the fertiliser and mulch over the entire root system, not just around the base of the stem. Passionfruit thrive on a diet of pelletised chicken manure or any fertiliser designed to encourage flowering and fruiting, such as citrus food. Apply fertiliser in spring and then every four weeks through summer. Always water well when applying fertiliser. It can take 12–18 months for a newly planted vine to reach fruiting size, although some flowers may be produced in summer or early autumn.

Passionfruit vines perform best with regular watering. Water is vital when the vine is newly planted and when it’s flowering and forming fruit.

Although passionfruit do not require special pruning techniques to produce fruit, they are pruned to control their size and spread, and to allow sunlight to filter through the vine to help ripen fruit. Pruned vines also produce strong new growth that in turn produces fruit. Established vines that have fruited and are growing well can be carefully pruned in spring, before flowering, to remove excessive growth and to avoid the huge tangle of stems that develop naturally. Follow a stem along carefully before you cut it to ensure you’re not removing a major branch. Later in the year, excessive summer growth can be tied back onto the trellis or support, or simply cut off wayward branches.

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