Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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How to Protect Your Plants from Frost or Freeze

Weather predictions show frost and free for the next 3-4 days. At this time, we do not recommend planting annuals, edibles, perennials, or shrubs. If you have already planted your new plants, here is how to protect them: 

What plants should be a concern?

  • Newly planted tender annuals, tropical plants, vegetables, herbs, etc.. These can be severely damaged or killed by frosts or freeze.  
  • Hardy perennials and nursery plants that may have very tender foliage from recently being inside a greenhouse may also receive severe damages from frosts and freezes.  
  • Hardy plants that have been growing in the landscape since last fall should be less susceptible to these colder temperatures but still can suffer some damages to the new growth already produced this spring.  

How should you protect your plants

  • Any potted plants take inside to the garage or shed until warmer weather.
  • Plants that are not portable, the goal is to cover the plants to keep some heat (radiating from the ground)around the planting. Also, to prevent frost from settling on the plant's foliage.
  • Water the soil thoroughly, which helps to hold heat at the soil level. The exception would be succulents.

How to Cover Your Plants

  • Cover the plants using: beds sheets, light drop cloths, light blankets / quilts, row covers (frost blankets), burlap, cheesecloth, etc.  
  • Draping the covering over the plants (like an umbrella) with the edges anchored down helps capture heat from the soil and holds it around the plants. If plants the plant is fragile, maybe place a few stakes in the ground to help hold the material off the plants.  
  • DO NOT USE PLASTIC unless you can form a structure to keep the plastic from touching the plant's foliage. Tomato cages covered with plastic trash bags work well. 
  • Cardboard boxes, empty upside-down tubs, pots, etc. work well.  Milk jugs (bottom cut out and lid off) over small vegetable / annual plants helps create a mini greenhouse.  

How Long Should I Leave my Plants Covered?

Leave the covering on until the air temperatures are back into the upper 40’s to 50’s. If it looks like a couple of days of cold temps, then leave the coverings on for a couple more days.

Do all of this as early in the day as you can (before nightfall) to be ready for those cold nighttime temps.

NOTE: If you forgot to cover or get surprised by a frost overnight, sometimes hosing tender foliage off with water early in the morning (before the sun hits the plants) may help minimize and sometimes eliminate light frost damages.

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