How To Protect Plants From Frost

For gardeners, frost can be a disaster. When temperatures dip below freezing, the cold can nip the leaves of tender plants, and a hard frost can cause enough ice to form inside the plant that it dies. If you’re looking for ways to keep your plants safe from frost, here are a few ideas.

1. Put Tender Plants in Frost-Resistant Areas

Cold air falls and heat rises, so if you have seedlings or tender annuals in small pots, try putting them on a bench or picnic table for the night to help keep the freezing air at ground level away from them. You can also place tender plants close to buildings, especially near dark-colored walls and walls that face south and west. These areas absorb more heat during the day, and radiate warmth at night.

2. Steer Clear of Frost Pockets

Following the advice above, keep tender plants out of low-lying areas or depressions in the ground. Cold air tends to pool in these depressions — plants in these areas will suffer more damage.

3. Cover Your Plants Before the Sun Sets

One way to keep frost from nipping tender leaves is to cover plants before the sun sets. There are variety of items you can use — milk jugs or small plant pots for smaller plants, buckets for medium-sized plants, or sheets and drop cloths for larger plants.

4. Keep Plants Warm With Jugs of Water

If you’re expecting a hard freeze, then fill milk jugs with hot water and place them under your plants’ coverings for the night. Water loses heat more slowly than the air — more so since the jugs will be partly insulated by the plant’s protective covering. The heat that the jugs shed through the night will help keep your plants warm enough to survive till the sun rises.

5. Water Your Plants Before a Frost

Keeping your plants well-watered during frost season is another great way to help protect them. However, you’ll want to go about this carefully. First, make sure that you don’t over-water your plants, as the ground can heave when it freezes, which will do more harm than good. Do water lightly in the evenings, though. Moist air tends to be warmer than dry air, so the humidity rising from the ground will keep your plants warmer through the night. Additionally, wet soil absorbs more of the sun’s heat during the day, which will also help keep your plants from freezing as temperatures dip.

6. Bring Potted Plants Indoors

If you have potted plants, the best thing you can do is bring them inside for the night if you’re anticipating a frost. It may seem easier to cover them, but roots have less protection in plant pots because there isn’t enough soil around them to keep them insulated. Because of this, potted plants are at a greater risk when temperatures drop, even if they’re covered.

If you have plants indoors already, you’ll want to make sure that you keep your indoor plants and outdoor potted plants separate to avoid transmitting disease. Or, if you have a garage or a shed that stays warm overnight, you can always put your potted plants inside.

Frosts can be dangerous to annuals and tender perennials. The good news is, if you have a few basic supplies handy — and these tips — you’ll be able to keep your plants safe until sunrise.

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