Lately, in the early morning our lawn has been covered in frost. The first few frosts were light, but now we are getting a heavy enough layer that even Oliver, our Kerry Blue Terrier, is dismayed that he is expected to walk on crunchy grass.
Unlike Ollie, I like frost.
First thing in the morning when I see it I am reminded that Mother Nature has been busy while we slept. If it’s a sunny morning the frost glistens like glitter and changes as I look at it from different angles. It doesn’t last long enough before the sun melts it, but it puts magic into my morning. However, I admit it is harder to appreciate frost on a cold, damp, gray morning when I have to scrape a heavy layer off the windshield of my car in order to leave the house.
For the home gardener, hard frost signals the end of the season. Plants that are not protected will die or start going dormant after the first few heavy frosts. It’s sad, but part of the gardening cycle and many of us are already planning our spring gardens.
Dew and frost are variations of each other. Dew occurs when the air can’t hold all the moisture in it and the surface temperature of solid objects is above the freezing point of water. When the surface temperature of these same objects is below the freezing point of water, frost is formed instead.
There are several types of frost, but the one we are most likely to see outside our front door is radiation frost, also called hoar frost.
The name hoar is thought to come from an Old English word used to describe signs of old age, and in the case of frost, refers to trees and bushes appearing to have a covering of white hair.
Hoar frost results in white ice crystals being deposited on the ground and on objects exposed to the elements during cold, clear nights when Earth’s heat is lost because there is no cloud cover holding it.
Surface hoar is frost deposited on snow, ice or already frozen surfaces and has a fern-like pattern. You can see this on the windshield of your car.
Air hoar is the deposit of frost you see on objects above the surface like branches, clotheslines, and my personal favorite, spider-webs. Few natural sights are as spectacular as a spider web covered in tiny frost crystals. Frosted spider webs make gorgeous photos.
My “Making Wreaths with Natural Materials” workshop has been set for Dec. 1. Keep collecting those pods, cones, nuts and other found natural objects. Call the office at 561-7450 for more information and to reserve your space.
Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.