Minor frost can cause major damage.

Frost was something of a nonissue for some of us this winter. For those of us in milder climates, in rarely is. Those who limit selection of what grows in their gardens to species that are resilient to frost need not be concerned with it. Those of us who enjoy gardening a bit too much are more likely to grow a few marginal species that would prefer to be somewhere with milder winter weather.

Protection from frost might have been a concern prior to the onset of cold weather. Then, there was more concern for the few plants that might have been damaged by frost. Grooming and pruning of damaged foliage and stems needed to be delayed until after the threat of subsequent frost. Now that it is so late in the season, subsequent frost is very unlikely. It is safe to clean up any mess.

Pruning and grooming of foliage and stems that were damaged by frost is delayed for two main reasons. Firstly, the damaged material, although unsightly, helps insulate undamaged foliage and stems below it from subsequent frost. Secondly, premature removal of damaged material stimulates premature development of new foliage and stems that are more sensitive to subsequent frost.

Not only is it now safe to prune and groom frost damaged plants, but such procedures should not be delayed while affected plants recover. The same frost damaged material that provided a bit of protective insulation earlier would now interfere with the healthy development of new stems and foliage. Pruning can now promote new growth that was preferably delayed through colder weather.

Because the weather has been so pleasantly mild for quite a while already, new growth may already be developing among some frost damaged plants. Damaged material should be removed as carefully as possible to limit damage to such new growth. Many perennials that were not damaged this year might be pruned as if they were, to remove tired old growth, and promote new growth.

Many of the dormant spores of fungal and bacterial pathogens that overwinter in old foliage will be removed as such foliage gets groomed away.

2 thoughts on “Frost Is Now Old News

  1. Wow. You are past your last frost date. We regularly get snow for at least another 6-7 weeks (although snow has been rare this winter. Cold has not). It has been known to snow in May here, although that’s rare. But lately, it almost always snows in April. It’s a cruel month, to quote Eliot.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. It snowed here too, . . . in 1976.
      Frost is not an easy topic to write about for a big area. My gardening column is distributed over 400 miles of the West Coast of California. That may not seem like much, but there are more climate zones within the fifteen miles between here an San Jose than there are in all of Oklahoma. Santa Maria was not past its frost date at the time that I wrote the article, but will be by the time the article posts there. There is no frost date for Beverly Hills (in the Los Angeles region), but they got the article anyway because frost occurs in the (slightly) higher elevations. Embarrassingly, it got almost cold enough for frost here within hours after I posted this article.


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