6 tips on What to do with Plants During Frost

Protecting Plants from Freezing & Damage

What to do with Freeze Damaged Plants

What to do with plants during frost? It is hard to predict the weather, and even meteorologists are surprised sometimes. Just when you think you’re in the clear, a surprise frost pops in and settles on your garden. It’s important to know your zone’s frost dates, since this will give you a good window of when to expect a frost. Keep in mind that frost dates are meant to be guidelines and they aren’t set in stone. These dates are based on historical data and there is a decent chance that a frost will come outside of your frost date range.

Prevent Frost Damage if You Can

Monitor the Weather

It’s a good idea to always keep an eye on the weather forecast, especially if you have garden plants that are frost sensitive. The temperature doesn’t have to be below freezing for a frost to form – frost can develop in an air temperature of 40° F.

Humidity is also a major factor in frost formation. Keep an eye on the forecasted dew point – the closer it is to freezing, the more likely it is that a frost will form in your garden. Since soil is usually cooler than the air temperature, it might be a good idea to keep a soil thermometer in place. This way, you have an idea of how much cooler your soil might be relative to the forecasted temperature.

Ways to Protect from Frost

If you’re able to act before a frost is expected, there are a few things you can do to protect your plants. First, establish which plants need protection. Some cool season vegetables and hardy plants do perfectly fine in frosts, and don’t need anything at all!

Commercial Plant Covers

There are lots of plant covers on the market, available in different sizes and styles. If you need to protect low-growing plants in a garden bed, these large garden cloths are perfect. Just loosely cover the plants and anchor the cloths with soil, rocks, or anything you can find. There are also frost jackets available in different sizes to protect shrubs and young trees. Whatever you decide to use, try to cover your plants before sundown to trap as much heat as possible, and secure them to keep freezing air from creeping in.

Oil Blankets or Sheets

These are great for lower growing shrubs and garden plants, and you probably already have some on hand. As with tarps or commercial plant covers, try to cover the plants before sunset to trap as much heat as possible, and anchor the blankets or sheets in place.

what to do with plants during frost

Pine Straw

Pine straw mulch is an affordable, effective insulator that works great to keep soil warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s also easy to remove once the threat of frost has passed. For larger plants, you might need an additional cover, since pine straw will only protect what’s close to the ground.

Make Sure Your Plants Are Watered

Plants that are weakened by drought are likely going to fare much worse than healthy ones, so make sure everything is watered. Not too much, but only what they need.

When the Best Laid Plans Fail

Unfortunately, there are times where we just can’t prevent frost damage to our garden. We get busy with life, and weather flukes happen all the time. If a frost snuck up on you and damaged your garden plants, there are some things you can do to help salvage your plants.

what to do with plants in winter

Gently Water While Still Frost Covered

It might sound counterintuitive, but this is an old gardener’s trick. While the plants are still frosted, but before the sun hits them, gently water them from above. A watering can will work perfectly, or you can put the garden hose nozzle on a mist setting.

Remove Frost Damaged Growth

Once any threat of frost as passed, prune all damaged parts of your plant to stimulate new growth. With hand pruners or loppers, cut down to a healthy sideshoot or bud. Apply a fertilizer or compost, but don’t overdo it, especially with fertilizer, since this can lead to root burn in already sensitive plants. Water the frost damaged plant lightly to avoid shocking it.

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