A Cold Start
This morning we had another -4 degree C frost. Under the light of the full moon it was a beautiful sight, reminding me that while it might stop me from growing year round tomatoes, bananas and other fruits which prefer a more tropical clime, that there is an advantage to a crisp sunny winter morning. Gardening has brought me closer to nature because of the sensation of creating a living thing, but the sight of crystalline patterns on vegetable leaves reminds me that nature displays beauty even in non-living things.

Advantages

After the first frost we spend less time worrying about insect pests on our plants, especially the green caterpillar that is my enemy. Some fruits need a cold winter, like the apricot which needs a cold winter to fruit, and brussel sprouts which love the frost. I’ve also read that frost can help to break up soil through the action of the expanding water as it freezes.

Avoiding the Frost
The best way to protect against frost is to plant in frost free areas, all gardens have microclimates, areas which stay slightly warmer and stay frost free, often these are next to the house, under a tree or a wall that stores heat. Sometimes you might be lucky and a complex set of factors give you an area that gets full winter sun and is less prone to frost. That’s where you plant your vegetables! If you can’t avoid the frost, use a cloche or a bit of frost cloth. Last year we protected some plants using some discarded bubble wrap, draped over some stakes which seemed very effective. Eventually we plan to build a greenhouse, heated in part by the chickens.

Frost Hardy Vegetables

Plants who survive: Plants who suffer:
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Brocolli
  • Beetroots
  • Silverbeet
  • Broad Beans
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Turnips (a most underrated vegetable)
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber
  • Sweetcorn

Photos by Clare, click to see larger