First Hard Frost of the Winter – At Last!

At -1°C, last night was the coldest we’ve had so far this winter, and temperatures are set to dip below zero for the next couple of nights as well. And not before time, either.

Frosty red kale
Something suitably frosty from the photo-archive…

I might seem strange to be glad to see a frost – after all, now the allotment isn’t only waterlogged, it’s waterlogged and semi-frozen, so digging is definitely off the agenda – but there are a couple of key food crops that I understand need a really good freeze to boost their performance: strawberries and garlic.

Strawberries require a period of chilling to help initiate flowering (as per Thompson & Morgan‘s advice page), although of course a late frost can kill off any flowers that have already set and damage new shoots. So this time of year, when the plants are still dormant, is ideal.

Garlic needs a period of cold to help it sprout and develop a bulb (as per greyduckgarlic.com’s FAQ) and I’m sure I’ve read that frost helps trigger division of the bulb into multiple cloves as well (online references remain frustratingly elusive…). Again though, late frost can cause leaf damage and yellowing, so the earlier the better.

We have three rows of strawberries on our allotment – 36 plants in total – and I planted around 80 cloves of garlic and/or elephant garlic last year, so I’m understandably keen that both of them have as many of their growing requirements met as possible. The garlic has already sprouted, as you can see from this pic, taken just last week:

Winter 2016 in the Allium Patch
January 2016: Last year’s Leeks and next year’s garlic growing well.

Fingers crossed a couple of frosty nights is just the ticket on both counts. We’ll know the score come strawberry- and garlic-harvest time, next June or July.

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