We gardeners never like to take the easy way, which is why tropical plants are very popular in non-tropical areas of Australia. Although it’s certainly easier to grow plants which naturally occur in your region, it is possible to grow beautiful, lush tropical plants in frost prone areas, and create a gorgeous tropical paradise, or Bali style garden. There are many ways to protect your precious tropical plants from frost. Outlined below are some methods to frost proof your garden.
1. One of the easiest ways to protect your tropical plants from frost and cold is to grow them in pots. Pots are easily moved to a different position, and can be placed inside the house during winter, and placed in a warm position during summer.
2. Cover your plants in a pile of leaves, straw or mulch. The cover will act as protection against the frost and creates warmth underneath. It also prevents the frost from freezing the soil, so it doesn’t damage the roots of your tropical plants, and other plants in the garden.
3. Protect plants from frost by placing a cardboard box around them, with the bottom cut out. This way you can slip the cardboard box over the plant, and you can open the ‘lid’ or top of the box in the morning to let some light in. At night you can close the lid again to protect the plant from frost, which always settles from above.
4. Palm fronds! Most gardeners find palm fronds an eyesore, and cutting them off and removing them a chore, but they come in very handy over winter. Build a tipi with them around the plant, creating a tent around the plant. This palm frond protection keeps frost of the plant, this way protecting it from frost.
5. Create a cylinder out of chicken wire, which you can place around the plant. The easiest way is to attach the chicken mesh to a wooden stake, and put some screws on the other side of stake. You can then hammer the stake into the ground, form a cylinder with the chicken mesh around the plant, and attach the chicken wire to the screws, which then act as an easy fastener. It’s also easy to loosen it off again in the morning if you wanted to open it during the day, and close it during the night. The chicken wire cylinder should be packed with straw or hay to form an insulated barrier against the cold.
There are some other things to take into account when protecting your plants from cold weather, such as the position of the plant. An exposed plant is a much easier target for frost than a plant which is protected by a roof, awning, shade cloth and other overhead covers. Frost always comes from above, so providing a cover can make a big difference.
If your garden is on a hillside, you might find you have several different climates along the slope. You may experience ‘frost pockets’ where cold sits much longer than in other parts of the garden. Frost pockets mainly happen in valleys, or dips, whereas frost drains much easier on the slopes.
Don’t forget to protect your taps and fitting from frost as well or you may find yourself without water in the morning! Tin cans make a great tap cover, especially filled with some insulation such as newspaper, hay or moss. You can use cardboard boxes as above, or buckets, clay pots, or any other cover which is easily removed when needed.