Protecting your Plants and Garden from the Cold
One of the biggest worries of us gardeners who invest a lot of time our plants and flowers is protecting them in cold weather. As we live in the Northeast and the chill and is just beginning to creep in, you’ll want to be prepared for the coming frost and take the proper steps to protect your precious garden from the elements.
Frost and your garden
When there is a combination of freezing temperatures and excess moisture in the air, you get frost. Frost damages plants by freezing plant cells with ice crystals and preventing those plant cells from getting the fluid movement that they need. When it warms up, those cells can burst, causing damage to your plants that make them appear shriveled or dark in color.
Watch for the Freeze
In New England, this is inevitable, but you will want to check the weather reports for signs that the first freeze of the season is coming. Temperatures will drop below the freezing point of water (32° F or 0° C) and the night will be clear and dry. You will also need to know the tolerance of your various plants. For example, annuals won’t survive a freeze but will disperse seeds to replenish themselves when the weather warms. Root-hardy perennials may suffer damage to the foliage by a freeze, but the roots will survive until spring.
Plan for the Freeze
If you’ve planned ahead for a freeze with your landscaping, you’ll have chosen the proper placement of your more vulnerable plants so that they are better protected during the winter. The most tender plants should be placed where they will absorb and retain the most heat. Shrubs and trees can be utilized to protect other plants from cold wind. Avoid planting anything in an area where water could pool and freeze in cold temperatures.
As the freeze looms, there are things that you can do to protect your beautiful garden and plants from the elements. Be sure that your plants are well-watered as this will help them to retain heat and protect the roots. Mulching around your plants also helps to retain moisture and heat. There is a new water-based, eco-friendly, antifreeze spray that is very effective in helping plants to enhance their natural “anti-freeze” properties for up to six weeks.
Finally, covering plants is your last and best line of defense against frost. Cover plants in the afternoon with essentially whatever you can get your hands on: blankets, sheets, towels, newspaper, tarps. However, if you use plastic, it needs to be black and elevated above the plants, or you could cause damage.
If your plants still suffer some frost damage, all is not lost. Most plants are resilient and can bounce back. You’ll want to leave any dead foliage in place as protection from future freezes. Once winter is over and they are showing signs of growth again, prune off the frost-damaged material.