How to Protect Plants from Frost

How to Protect Plants from Frost
February 17, 2022

It should go without saying that frost is a plant's worse enemy. Plants need a few things to live and thrive, and warmth is definitely one of them. When frost sets in, most plants will wither and die almost immediately, and so in this article, we will go over what frost is, what it does to plants, what plants are most vulnerable to frost, and most importantly, how to protect your plants from frost.

What is Frost?

In simple terms, frost is a thin layer of ice that can form on your plants when water changes from a gas to a solid, which occurs when the temperature falls below zero degrees. A light frost may not kill your plants if you catch it quickly, but a hard frost will almost always spell doom for your plants and flowers.

What Does Frost Do to Plants?

A light freeze, otherwise known as a light frost, will kill the tops of your plants and flowers within a few hours, but if you're lucky, the base of the plant will remain alive and may be salvageable. However, a deep freeze or "hard" frost will kill your entire plant so that it won't be possible to save it.

What Causes Frost?

Frost is caused by water changing from a gas into a solid. In other words, it's when water particles collect and turn to ice. Generally, a hard frost will form when the external temperature falls below zero degrees, but a light frost can form even before the temperature hits zero as the climate approaches the freezing point.

What Plants are Most Vulnerable to Frost?

Now, it's worth noting that not all plants die when they are frozen. Some species of plants and flowers have evolved in cold climates and can last all winter in harsh conditions. But, most of these cold climate plants are found in remote regions and are not commonly found in home gardens, and as such, there is a great chance that your plants and flowers are not well-suited to cold conditions and will therefore require some protection when the weather gets chilly.

watering plants with a watering can in a greenhousewatering plants with a watering can in a greenhouse

The Top 10 Ways to Protect Plants from Frost

Keep in mind that the best way to protect your plants from frost is to protect your plants from frost. Before you even plant your garden, you should do some research on which plants do well in your local region, when the weather is likely to change and become colder, and when you should move your plants indoors. By knowing these things ahead of time, you can prevent any unexpected surprises when the first frost of the year arrives.

With that said, let's look at how you can protect your plants when it does get cold so that they don't die and wither away.

1. Start by Planting for Your Climate

The first, and arguably, most important thing you should do if you want to protect your plants from frost is to know your local climate. By knowing which plants will thrive in your area given the weather conditions, you can grow hardy varieties that will hold up in the event that the weather changes unexpectedly and a light frost sets it.

2. Understand Hardiness Zones

Different plants thrive under different conditions, and certain areas, known as hardiness zones, are more conducive to growing certain varieties than other regions. So be sure to check your local hardiness zone so that you can determine which plants are a good option based on the climate in your local area.

3. Know Your Frost Dates

Depending on where you live, you may experience frost earlier or later in the year. Some regions never receive frost, and as such, people living in those areas don't need to worry about cold weather setting in, but if you are reading this, then odds are that you live in a region that is affected by seasonal weather variations, and so by knowing the local frost dates, you can plan ahead and take the steps necessary to prevent your plants from dying as a result of frost.

4. Move Potted Plants Indoors

Plants that you haven't put in the ground should always be moved indoors before the weather turns cold and frost has a chance to set it. Again, by checking the hardiness zones and knowing your frost dates, you can anticipate the change in weather and bring all of your potted plants indoors where they will be safe and warm throughout the winter.

5. Use a Portable Greenhouse for Potted Plants

If you don’t have the space inside your home or would prefer to keep your plants and flowers in their own special area, then a portable greenhouse may be the perfect solution. Portable greenhouses are easy to set up, relatively inexpensive for what you’re getting, and offer a fantastic amount of protection for all of your potted plants during the coldest months of the year.

Covering PlantsCovering Plants

6. Cover Plants

Another option is to cover your plants so that they can still breathe and receive some light but will retain some warmth and protection from the elements. There are a few different ways to go about covering up your plants. You can use clear plastic bags; just make sure that you poke some holes in the bag so that the plants can still breathe and receive an adequate amount of oxygen. Alternatively, you can use burlap, sheets, towels, plant frost covers, or tarps to achieve the same thing.

7. Use Shade Cloth

To keep your winter greenhouse plants warm, consider covering them with plant frost covers like ShelterLogic shade cloth at night. This will help prevent frost should your greenhouse get too cold and will allow your winter plants to survive on particularly cold nights when the temperature in your greenhouse starts to approach the freezing mark.

8. Use a Raised Bed Greenhouse

Another excellent way to protect your plants from frost is by using a raised bed greenhouse. This type of roll-up greenhouse is an excellent way to protect flowers that are planted directly in the ground. The way it works is that the raised bed greenhouse, which is a fabric shelter for your garden bed, covers and protects your plants from the harshest weather conditions so that your plants and flowers can continue to grow outdoors when the cold weather would otherwise kill them.

9. Add Mulch

Mulch does more than just look great in your garden; it actually protects the root system and base of your plants, which are particularly sensitive areas that, if not protected, can lead to your plants dying when frost sets in. Mulch also acts as a barrier in heavy rainfall and other bad weather, so if you plan on having an outdoor garden year-round, then be sure to spread some mulch around the base of your plants; you'll be glad you did when the frost arrives.

10. Keep Watering Your Plants

Finally, even though the weather is cold outside and there is a good chance of water turning into ice or frost, your plants still need liquid water to live, and so you should certainly continue watering them even in the cold winter months. A good idea is to warm up the water first before giving your plants a drink. You don't want hot water or even lukewarm water; just make sure that the water is room temperature or slightly warmer so that your plants can get a drink before the water freezes.

Protecting Plants from Frost will Make You a Gardening Hero

Most people who enjoy gardening take great pride in their plants and flowers, and so it can be heartbreaking when they discover that all of their plants have died overnight because of a surprise change in the weather. Fortunately, this can be avoided by doing your homework, knowing which types of plants will grow well in your local region, knowing when the frost will set it, and protecting plants from frost accordingly.

You can protect your potted plants by moving them indoors to a portable greenhouse before the cold weather arrives, and outdoor plants and flowers can be protected by using a raised garden bed; if neither of these things are an option, then be sure that you add mulch and cover your plants with something that will allow them to retain heat when the outside weather gets cold.

It requires a little bit of planning and some extra work to protect your plants and flowers from the frost, but by following the advice in this article, you'll be able to keep your garden looking great year-round.

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