Yikes, It’s the First Frost!

Early morning frost sparkles on berry leaves, leaving a rough edge of white crystals.

Getting up early nowadays is a dark and—like this morning—a sometimes frosty experience. Watching your feet crunching on dead leaves shows each leaf is glittering with sparkling diamonds. Frost’s pristine beauty somewhat compensates for having to drag out the hat and scarf. This was the first morning that the thermometer dipped below zero in the city of Toronto, giving us a taste of things to come.

If you still have any potted plants outside, (confession: I have a lot!) annuals like geraniums, or pots of herbs, now is the drop-dead time to get them inside. Progessively cooler nights do toughen tender plants, bit by bit, which allowed my tropical hibiscus plant to survive even last night’s minus 1, but anything much colder will turn non-hardy plants to mush.

It’s always a bit sad this time of year, when annuals, in spite of cooler weather often continue to bloom like crazy. They don’t actually know they’re in Canada! Soon a cold night will come along hitting them with a blast of frost that really means business. Tender plant tissues expire and turn to mush. Impatiens, california poppies or nasturtiums are the first to go, while slightly hardier ones, like geraniums can weather a fair bit of frost.

Taking Cuttings

You can save many plants for next year by taking cuttings, if you don’t have room to store actual potted plants indoors. Cuttings of coleus, impatiens, and geraniums will thrive over winter in small containers of water, and can be re-planted for next spring. Cut 3 or 4 inches off a shoot, with a sharp knife or scissors just below a node (where a stem branches off on the stem). Let the cut dry for 24 hours before you put it in water.

Tip: Use opaque containers for rooting this way as the roots develop more efficiently in darkness. Keep in bright light, not direct sunlight, while rooting.

I always find it’s a comfort this time of year to know I’ve saved a few favourite specimens from Jack Frost, and knowing they’ll live on another year.

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