Categories: General Date: 9 Sep 2013 Title: Spring! don't be tricked by the season.You think now that everything is blossoming and we have a few warm days that winter is over . . . but don't be caught out!
September in Hobart is the most tantalising month. Bulbs are flowering, trees are blossoming and leafing out, all the leafy greens start to grow much faster. I've even got the first artichoke flower buds appearing.
But beware! September is also a month when we get big dumps of snow on the mountain, and plenty of frosts in many areas. Plants are particularly susceptible to frost damage when they have tender new growth, as many do now.
This is my lovely one year old perennial chilli plant, generously providing lots of gorgeous glowing and HOT HOT HOT chillis through winter. You can see the burnt leaves and growing tips near the top and outer edges of the plant. These were 'burnt' by frost a few weeks ago. My passionfruit vine suffered similar damage, and many of the nasturtiums around the place also looked like they'd been melted. Young citrus trees are also susceptible to frost damage, which is why its a good idea to let the nurseries care for them until October or so, when they can be planted with much less risk.
Its good to resist pruning off frost damaged bits for another month or so. Firstly, the damaged bits, even though unattractive, can protect the remaining intact parts of the plant to a degree. Also, pruning may stimulate new growth, which is extra tender and susceptible to more damage from the next frost. So wait till the frost risk is past if you can bear to.
New potato plants just pushing up out of the soil can be burnt off by a hard frost. If the forecast is for very cold overnight conditions, you can protect them by fluffing up some straw or grass clippings over the top of the new growth, to prevent the ice crystals forming on the leaves. You can even lay fleece or sheets or cardboard over frost senstive plants, as long as you remove the covering in the morning once the sun is up.