How To Protect Outdoor Plants from the Cold
Much of the US got hit hard by the Arctic cold temperatures that pushed down from Canada over the past week or so. In some areas, snow completely covered plants. In others, it just got plenty cold at night, for extended periods. All of this freezing business is hard on our gardens!
In the interest of trying to save what remains of our tender plants after this current cold front moves through, see the tips below, learning how to protect outdoor plants from the cold. In this post, we’re addressing frost and light freezing. (Protection from heavier snow fall is another whole post!)
Frost Protection Information and Tips:
• Frost is hard on plants because it causes ice crystals to form in plant cells. This makes it difficult or impossible for fluids to move throughout the plant.
• Plants are classified by the minimum temps they can tolerate in average years. Tender plants will most likely be killed by frosts. Hardy plants can take some short-term freezing spells. It’s always advisable to try and plant only those that will be cold hardy for your growing zones.
• Watering the soil helps hold heat better than dry soil, so water when it’s been dry for too many days, and your plants appear to shrivel up. The water protects the roots and warms the air near the soil. However, don’t water while it’s freezing!
• For tender plants, you can cover with light sheets, towels, or plastic sheeting to keep the air near the plant warmer. Be sure to keep plastic from touching the foliage. You might use small stakes to help keep the cover from laying directly on the plants.
• You can cover the base of lower plants with 2-3” of mulch for most of the cold season.
• Perennials can be covered through the winter with 6-8” of mulch.
• If you put salt or other types of anti-freezing solutions on your walkways, be sure and keep them off of your plants.
Plant Specific Tips:
• Succulents that are more sensitive, if in pots, can be moved into a garage or other warmer area for protection. In the case of these plants, keep them on the dry side, rather than watering, as they are more likely to burst when freezing. If some leaves do die, leave them on for the winter to protect the foliage below.
• Potted plants can be moved to a garage or protected area if more delicate. Being in the pot, versus buried in the ground, leaves the root ball more easily susceptible to freezing. If you don’t have room in the garage, at least move them close together, and drape a light material over them during the coldest periods.
• Roses can be protected by mounding 12-18” of soil over the base to protect the crowns.
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