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Posted by Tammy Sons on Nov 21, 2019
As a gardener, you know to plant flowers, shrubs, and trees that can survive in your garden, whatever your typical climate. But what about when the weather is unpredictable and not typical? When the weather gets unexpectedly cold, freezing temperatures can devastate landscapes and gardens. If you’re wondering how to protect plants from freezing winter temperatures, you’ve come to the right place. Here we go over a few ideas to help you keep your plants safe no matter what the weather throws at you.
Especially in early spring or in typically colder climates, the threat of frost can be especially significant. We recommend starting by monitoring weather conditions and checking reports as often as you can. That way, you can prepare for upcoming frosts or cold fronts. Read on for some easy ways to prepare and hopefully save your beloved gardens from front damage this cold weather season.
We all know how spring weather works. One day it’s a beautiful 65°F and sunny, and the next day it’s a freezing 32°F with frost all over the ground. It can be very frustrating from a gardening perspective to keep up with fluctuating temperatures. Maybe you’re a gardener who loves the challenge of trying to protect new growth from the damage that cold fronts can bring.
If you’re worried about frost damage, root damage, frost crack on bark, and plant death in general, we got you covered. Here are a few ways to protect those plants before the colder season.
The first thing we recommend is to choose plants that are suited to your environment. Though it’s the simplest way to protect your plants, planning can save you a headache later. Research which growing zone you are in or learn what is your likely low and high temperatures for the year. Can the plants you chose withstand those temperatures? Keep in mind that some plants may lose their leaves and go dormant in the winter, so take a little time to know how well those plants can adapt to your climate.
Make sure you talk to the people at your favorite nursery about what to expect from a plant in your particular area. They will have all the best knowledge of where to plant and how to care for a plant before purchasing it.
Pro gardeners might have suggestions for varieties and cultivars of plants that are best suited for your environment. Some plant varieties are bred hardier than others, which makes them better options for colder environments.
Another easy solution for saving some of your pants is to bring your potted plants inside. Any potted plants or hanging baskets outdoors should be brought indoors. You don’t have to disrupt your entire home with your plethora of plants - even a move to a garage or sunroom will be beneficial.
However, placing plants near windows will help them get the sun that they need if you're able. East and west-facing windows get the most light, while north and south windows get less. If you can bring your plants inside during the colder seasons, we also recommend that you avoid putting them near vents so that they don’t dry out and die. Be wary of placing them too close to the window, though. Freezing temperatures can transfer to your plant if they are touching the window.
If you know a cold night or freeze is coming, heavily water the soil around your plants and trees. The soil can trap the heat much better wet than dry, and it will evaporate slowly. That will warm the air around the plants. A word of caution - if you know a hard freeze is on its way, this plan can backfire. However, a generous watering can help retain some of the day’s heat and protect against a light frost.
It might be common sense, but don’t water soil that is already frozen. It can make staying alive more difficult for your plants. If you have many succulents, don’t overwater them, they can’t handle the moisture.
Mulch is another great way to help protect your plants from freezing winter temperatures. It acts as an insulator to hold in both heat and moisture in the soil. It usually is the freeze/thaw cycle that affects the soil and causes the destruction of the plant rather than just the cold weather. However, the cold soil can also prevent water from being drawn up from the plant.
Regardless of why you need to protect your plants, applying a thick layer of mulch can help protect the roots and keep your plants healthy. We recommend using mulch made of wheat or pine straw because it’s easy to remove once you’re ready, and it is good at trapping heat. Make sure you do a little research, as some plants can get overwhelmed by covering too much.
Remember that insulation works both ways. It can prevent the soil from cooling down too quickly, but mulch can also prevent it from warming up when it needs to. Use your best judgment and do your research to decide what is suitable for your plants.
A tried a true technique that many gardeners use is to throw an old blanket, drop cloth, or tarp over your plants. Especially if you just have a couple of cold nights coming up, the shelter of a thin blanket might be enough to keep the frost off your plants. You’ve chosen your covering. Arrange it so that it isn’t covering too much of the leaves or branches. You might need to use stakes or spikes to prop it up to damage your plant. Covering your garden is a good solution because it won’t increase the temperature too much.
Other people build greenhouses or build a temporary and straightforward cold frame by bending metal rods into loops and covering your garden with fabrics that protect your garden. That can trap the heat and block the frost. If you do decide to build a greenhouse or cold frame, make sure it has adequate ventilation. If daytime temperatures get too hot, it could kill your plants just as easily as cold weather.
Our last tip is not to stress too much! Plants are remarkably resilient. If you see signs of frost damage, don’t be too hasty by pruning or digging up the plant thoroughly. Wait until the weather warms back up to see if the plant will grow.
You’ll most likely be surprised at how much new growth you’ll see. You can always prune back the dead parts and tend to the healthy parts.
Have more questions about how to protect plants from freezing winter temperatures? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us and help you make sure you get the right plants for your climate.