Frost Heave

Exactly what causes heaving, and can it be prevented?
gby1112_4a_mulch

gby1112_4a_mulch

Heaving, or frost heave, occurs when soils are subjected to alternate periods of freezing and thawing. It can be so severe that plants are literally shoved out of the ground. According to master gardener Paul James, heaving is most common during late winter or early spring when there is abundant rainfall and varying temperatures.

Heaving can occur in all soil types, but it is more prevalent in soils that don't drain well, especially soils containing a high percentage of clay. Soils that retain moisture (like clayey soils) expand when they freeze and, in the process, create an upward pressure that literally lifts the soil.

To prevent heaving, James suggests improving soil drainage by adding compost or another form of organic matter. He also recommends adding insulation to the soil surface, especially during the peak heaving season. The best insulation is shredded wood mulch. Spread a three- to four-inch layer of mulch around--but not quite up to--the base of the plant. Of course, if you live in an area of the country where significant snowfall is common, then heaving shouldn't be a problem since snow is an excellent insulator. In fact, one foot of snow will insulate the soil to the equivalent depth.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How Do I Protect Plants from Frost?

Easy ways to prevent winter injury.

Late Frost Happens: How to Help Your Plants

Protect trees, shrubs, flowers and veggies from late spring frosts and freezes with these tried-and-true tips. 

What You Should Know About Last Frost Dates

Take the guesswork out of spring planting by learning about frost dates.

Saving Citrus From Frost

Discover ways to protect your outdoor citrus from the elements.

Pumpkin Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

Celebrate the arrival of fall with these delicious cupcakes.

Lemon-Scented Cupcakes With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Use this dressed-up vanilla cupcake recipe as the base for special-occasion decorated treats. Just add food coloring and embellishments for endless possibilities.

Coca-Cola Cupcake With Salted Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe

Chocolate cake is nuanced with the flavor of Coca-Cola, and the peanut butter frosting delivers a perfect sweet and salty bite.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.