Of Winter Frosts and Snizzle

We've had our first real breath of winter here in VP Gardens this week. A few days of air frost and cold surfaces have combined to outline everything in a magical dusting of hoar frost. Many plants can withstand the odd ground frost or three, but just like us a thorough air frost can chill plants right down to the bones.

Even a dustbin bag full of tinfoil* can look quite interesting when its varied folds have a hoar frost outline. But seeing it's Friday, what of the salad? I hear you ask...

The beets I showed you a couple of weeks ago are standing up well so far, even though I've left them without any protection. It'll be interesting to see if their leaves toughen up as part of the plant's self preservation.

My fennel's wilted leaves are showing a textbook example of physiological drought. I've rescued them and tucked them up in a coldframe now. I think the leaves will bounce back OK from their experience, but whether the small, iced up bulbs will also be edible - never mind keep growing - remains to seen.

I don't have the luxury of a polytunnel or greenhouse to cosset my salad leaves over the winter, so part of my own personal 52 Week Salad Challenge is to see how much useful protection is provided by simpler, cheaper options such as fleece, cloches and coldframes. Even these less roomy coverings help to keep the temperature a few degrees warmer (outside we've been down to -5o centigrade over the last few days and nights) and increase my salad's chances of survival. Before this week I was a little sceptical of their effectiveness, but after a quick peep under the pictured cloches (so my leaves don't get too much of a shock!) I'm encouraged to see they're a great help. Whether they can cope with the rest of this winter's chills, or indeed the exceptional weeks of cold like those we saw in the winter of 2009/2010 remains to be seen.

As well as learning a little more about effective winter crop protection, I've also discovered a fab new weather word this week: snizzle. This is a light drizzling form of snow which can fall from e.g. freezing fog. I went out on Tuesday night and was surprised to find the centre of Chippenham covered in a light coating of snow when I returned home. Our local TV weatherman alerted me to the technical term and said it's a relatively new one having only been proposed in an academic paper in 2009. However, I see there's a blogged reference to it dated 2007 :)

Related Posts

I saw lots of fields in Cornwall last week with their soil covered for warming up ready for early crops. That plus this week's frosts have reminded me of my earlier What's the Weather for Salad? post showing you how you can calculate your sowing, planting and cropping times for outdoor grown salad leaves. If you prefer a shortcut, there's also a link on there to a useful website which gives the air frost dates for many of the UK's towns and cities.

Today I've linked to a selection of relevant posts I've made previously about the weather. You may also like to see my popular ABC of Weather series and further posts I've made under the Weather label.

* = NAH's aunt can no longer get to her local recycling facility in Poole, so we brought her piles of tinfoil home with us after our last visit. We're waiting for the right week (i.e. the recycling one) for our bin men to take it away. Distance caring tasks get a bit bizarre at times...


  1. I much prefer frosty days, especially when sunny, to wet and windy ones like today.
    Snizzle is a such a good word! Flighty xx

  2. Very wet here today, the frost in my garden has melted away.

  3. New word to me too - Snizzle - glad you explained the meaning, although I was going to use it anyway as it is such a lovely word - describes beautifully.. Snizzle (I'm going to be talking a lot about the weather today!)

  4. I'm looking forward to my first opportunity to use snizzle - not today sadly -it's definitely a piddling day today (am I allowed to say that?!)

  5. those those weather terms--snizzle...I have greens and carrots under a row cover all winter to see what will happen..they are not warm enough to grow much but hopefully they will survive for early spring to grow a bit...

  6. Oh what a glorious word is snizzle - we have not had any yet but I will know what to call it when it arrives. I know from experience the odd directions that long distance caring can lead you :)

  7. Snizzle! What a fabulous word. No hoar frosts here so far, so glad to share in oyurs through fab photos. Am going to experiment with coldframes too, why not, nothing to lose when the plants would otherwise not survive.

  8. Flighty and Jennifer - I'm delighted to have discovered this new weather word :)

    Awholeplotoflove - and what a difference a week makes - bright sunshine here today!

    Lu - of course you are ;)

    Donna - I'm growing carrots too - for salad foliage as well as the roots.

    Anna - it certainly does *sigh*

    Janet - as you're on the coast you'll have a much better chance of stuff surviving than we do. I can't vouch for those seaborne winds though. As you say, there's nothing to lose...


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