How to Protect Plants from Frost

Some plants can withstand frost quite well, while others like the ones pictured on the right need a little help when a freak frost is coming along. These tulip leaves show classic signs of frost–wilting and a little browning on the tips. If the owners had taken better care and heeded frost warnings the tulips would still be upright and perky.

All they needed was a lightweight frost blanket and they would have been set.

These frost blankets are perfect for late or early frosts. Tarp will protect the plants overnight, but will cause them to heat up too fast in the early morning hours, which can cause more damage than they help. A blanket or sheets can become heavy with rain and crush or smother the plants, cutting out air circulation. If you have warning of the frost, a frost blanket will provide enough insulation and give the plants air circulation when the sun rises. All-in-all it’s your best solution for plants that are already planted. Here’s a picture to get a sense of what they’re like:

frost blanket

We have two and our gardens look as peppy as they did a week ago.

Other Ways to Protect your Plants against Frost

Frost protection really begins before you plant your plants. It even begins before you choose your plants. Different regions of the United States fall into different hardiness zones. You can check the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map to find your zone. Armed with this information, you can now take a trip down to the nursery and pick whatever plants fall into that zone or below. You may choose one on the edge of your zone, but know that it may be a battle to keep it alive in late or early frosts.

Once you decide what to plant, placing them in a safe position will help keep it from frost injury. High points and low points are susceptible to cold temperatures. The perfect place for a plant that needs protection is on a south-facing gently sloping hill. The hill will protect it from north winds and the sun will warm the soil to also help the plants get through tough times. High buildings and trees in the area will also help protect frost-susceptible plants.

This may sound kind of counter-intuitive, but keeping your plants moist during a frost can also help protect them. When frost crystallizes on a plant it pulls the moisture from its cells, which is part of the reason the cells are damaged. If they are well-watered they have a better reserve. Plus, as water freezes it gives off heat. So if you wet the area round the plant it should keep it warmer.

Of course, in order for your plant to get the water, it must be planted in rich soil that can hold moisture.

Steps for Protecting your Plants against Frost

Basically it boils down to the following steps for protecting your tender plants:

  1. Choose a plant that can survive in your region;
  2. Pick an area with rich soil on the south side of a gently sloping hill to plant your new addition. Alternatively, plant close to a building to protect against the wind;
  3. Keep your plants well-watered so they can fend off frost on their own.
  4. Cover with a frost blanket for protection on the coldest nights.

And voila–your plants will survive late frosts.

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