Wednesday, 30 November 2016

a real frost

It was properly cold last night.  Not as cold as Oxfordshire where the thermometer hit minus 8 C, but forecast to be cold enough for me to set the heaters in the greenhouse and the conservatory when I came in from the garden.  It was a relief when I went out this morning to switch them off again to find all the plants still above freezing and that nothing had collapsed, defoliated or turned to mush in the night.  I don't know how cold it got here because I don't have a max-min thermometer, but my phone told me it was minus 2 in my location when I got up.  I think that was a generality for the area, since it wasn't as though the phone had popped outside to check.

The garden did look very pretty with the frost on it, under a blue sky.  If we get another frost before all the seed heads disintegrate I must persuade the Systems Administrator to photograph them, or at least photograph those it is possible to get to without walking on the lawn.  If you are going to take cold weather gardening seriously then you need surfaces you can walk on during freezing spells without spoiling them.  This precludes the lawn.

The trouble with frost from a gardening point of view is that you can't do much until it's gone.  You can prune woody stems if you've a mind to, indeed Christopher Lloyd waxed lyrical about the joys of rose pruning in cold weather, when you would not feel the thorns and could look at the streams of red with detached amazement.  But you cannot weed because the surface of the ground is solid, you cannot walk on the grass, you probably can't rake leaves because they will be either frozen to the ground or else lying on the grass, you cannot plant anything because the surface of the ground is solid and you absolutely must not bury any frozen lumps around the roots of your new plant, or they will take an age to thaw, chilling its roots all the while.

The frost was slow to shift even with the sun on it and I had to defrost my car before I could go to Tesco.  By the time I got back things were looking a little damper and more flexible, though you could see the hollows where the sun didn't quite touch by the bowls of frost still lying.  I decided it was a morning for getting on with trimming the ivy hedge.  I feel I must be on the home straight with the ivy, though generally when I feel that it turns out to mean there are only about two days' worth of work to go.  That's the trouble with frosts, they make an already short gardening day even shorter.

By mid afternoon the gravel had thawed nicely and I was able to scoop up leaves and pull out tufts of creeping sorrel as a change from the ivy.  But by four it was too dark to see what I was doing and jolly cold.  I think we will get a light frost tonight, but not enough to be worth setting the heaters.

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