Frozen flakes of rich, yellow ginkgo leaves at the base of my trees wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote last week’s column. I watched them land with a soft thud on the frosty ground this morning. When we get a really hard frost some plants do get nipped that normally would be fine in a light frost. Here’s how to deal with frost damage.
Don’t be tempted to rush out and prune away the damaged parts of the plant. This winter will have more cold weather and the upper part of your plant, even if damaged, can protect the crown from further freezing. This applies to citrus trees, too. If a perennial like Mexican sage froze and is now gooey and black, cut the plant down to the ground. It will re-grow come spring from the root system.
If you didn’t get a cover crop planted in your vegetable garden, be sure to cover the soil with a layer of compost as soon as possible. Leaving the bare earth exposed to the elements, the constant beating of the rain will compact the surface and leach nutrients out of the soil. Covering the soil with a 3" thick layer of compost will act as a blanket and protect the soil from compaction and slow the rate that moisture penetrates the soil.
At the same time, adding a layer of compost will help improve soil quality. In spring you can leave the compost as a mulch to help prevent weeds or you can work it into the soil as an amendment.