How to Protect Plants From Frost

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

Frost Defense

Frost Defense

At his farm in Arkansas, gardening expert P. Allen Smith uses row cover cloth to protect tender lettuce leaves from freeze.

Photo by: Image courtesy of P. Allen Smith, photography by Hortus LTD

Image courtesy of P. Allen Smith, photography by Hortus LTD

Frost and freezing temps can damage or kill tender plants, and winter isn't the only time your plants need protection. Surprise cold temps hit in spring, too. So how do you protect those tender plants? Temporarily covering helps, but there are also cultural practices that will keep plants strong through the hard times, so that even if a late frost damages a few buds, the plant itself will weather the ... weather.

1. Use Row Cover Cloth

New leaf growth and tender buds can be damaged by frost and freezes, so covering your plants with light cloth, like a sheet or, better yet, row cover cloth meant for this purpose, is a good practice. If you're expecting snow or ice along with those cold temperatures, be sure to prop up that cloth with stakes or some kind of support so that the extra weight doesn't hurt the plant even more.

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2. Lay On the Mulch

Mulch improves drainage and protects plant roots, acting almost like insulation. It's really the unsung hero of the garden and landscape, keeping roots and soil warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather.

3. Keep Plants Watered

A well-watered plant is a stronger plant. Plus, moist soil provides more warmth than dry soil, so even as air temps dip, your soil could stay a little warmer.

4. Water at the Roots

This is true in all seasons. Watering overhead can cause disease problems as leaves stay wet for too long and allow funguses to grow. Wet leaves and fruits can also freeze. So just keep that hose close to ground level.

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