Question: According to the weather report, it’s supposed to get really cold tonight. How can I protect my plants from frost?
- Tim R. (Catonsville, MD)
Answer: This is a question I often get. My first recommendation, if you’re still in the planning stages of your garden, is to select frost-tolerant plants, especially if you’re in a frost-prone area. However, most folks who ask this question are way beyond the planning stages and just want to know how to protect their existing plants from frost or freeze. Well, here are some suggestions.
Location, Location, Location – Protect your plants by placing them in locations that are more sheltered from the elements. Since the idea is to keep the plants warm when the temperature drops, you should place them where more heat will be retained for a longer period. For example, you should place your plants where there is full sun exposure instead of in shaded areas. Along the same lines, spots with western and southern exposures tend to be warmer and better for your plants. Finally, it’s a good idea to put your plants near block walls, rocks and patios because they collect and reflect the heat of the sun. And if you’re really worried, you can always bring the plants indoors for the night.
Plant Preparation – Make sure your plant is well-watered. This will prevent plant dehydration caused by the ice crystals drawing moisture from the leaf. And when the soil is wet, the moisture released at night will keep the area a bit warmer. Putting some mulch on the soil will also help insulate and trap in the heat.
Provide Coverage – After you’ve prepared your plant by watering and placing mulch on the soil, you need to prevent heat loss by covering the plants. Drape a lightweight material such as bedsheets, a Plant Blanket, newspapers, or a specifically designed Fabric Cover for Plants or a plant cover like the Dalen HG25 25′ X 5′ Harvest Guard Row Cover. Whatever you use, make sure you cover the plant completely from top to bottom. Close any openings to prevent as little heat as possible from escaping. Just remember: don’t tie up the cover around the trunk of the plant. You want the benefit of the heat being released from the ground getting trapped inside the cover. So, let the cover touch the ground naturally and secure it with rocks or bricks. Once the frost or ice thaws out the next day, remove the cover to give the plants air and light. You don’t want to keep it covered all day and risk plant damage because of overheating from the trapped heat.