No matter how careful you are, unseasonable cold snaps can come without warning and ruin the best planned garden.
So what can you do to help give your plants the best fighting chance possible?
Here's How To Avoid Frost Damage To Plants:
- Pay attention to the micro climates within your own yard.
- The coldest spots in a yard are large areas of open ground that are exposed to the sky, and low spots like hollows where cold air will sink. Try avoid planting anything tender in these areas, or, be ready to cover them on really cold nights.
- The warmest spots are on the south side of the house.
- Overhangs, lath structures and evergreen branches provide nice cover from frost. If you can, move your plants to these sheltered areas.
- If plants are in rolling containers, move them indoors during really cold nights.
- If your plants are permanent, or too large to be moved, cover them with a cardboard box, sheets, or burlap, but don't allow the material covers to rest on leaves, they will the burn foliage. To keep materials off the plant's foliate, drive stakes in around the plant to create a temporary shelter that the material can be draped over. Remember to remove the covers during the day.
- Don't use plastic covers as they can smother a plant.
- Broad-leafed evergreens, do better if they are watered well before the ground freezes, then apply a thick mulch to protect plant's roots. Remove the mulch in the spring when temperatures start to warm up.
- To protect vegetable gardens, use floating row covers: more about row covers
If you're too late, and you already have frost damaged plants, here is what you do:
- Initially nothing
- Leave the dead material there because it will help protect the plant if another freeze comes along and also from sunburn
- Wait until the warm weather is here to stay and then see where any new growth is starting to emerge
- When you can see new growth, and all chance of frost is gone, then you can prune off the dead material
- Water only enough to keep the damaged plants alive, since they have lost so much foliage, their water requirements will be reduced
- Wait to fertilize until the plant has put on nice, new growth and is well recovered