Plant Freeze Protection in Abnormally Cold Weather
Like most gardeners, I pay particular attention to the weather, combining observation and information to make a plan for garden maintenance. Usually, that decision-making process involves adjusting to excessive heat and drought. I’m downright vigilant about the heat. But the cold? Making plans for plant freeze protection? Well, I don’t really think too much about it. Like many Central Texans, I’ve grown a bit complacent about cold weather, not having seen much of it in the last decade.
But when the weather professionals give the type of forecast that involves the arrival of an arctic blast and mentions the polar vortex? I take notice. Normally, I don’t take any special care of my garden in the winter. Some of my plants end up with a bit of frost damage every year, but they grow out of it just fine, needing only a bit of minor pruning in early spring. But when I hear a forecast with the potential for several straight days below freezing and a short dip into single digits? Even a lazy gardener like me takes action.
Quick Pointers for Plant Freeze Protection
There are plenty of references and publications on how to protect your plants from the cold, but if you don’t enough time to search out information, here are are a few pointers from my own yard.
Move containers indoors
If at all possible, move container plants indoors or into the garage. If you can’t move containers indoors, go ahead and toss a blanket over the entire plant and its pot, and weigh it down on the ground so that the entire plant and the container are protected.
Don’t use plastic for plant freeze protection
You know all those old sheets and worn out blankets that you’ve been meaning to donate but just haven’t? Now is their time to shine! If the fabric is heavy, be sure to use a stake or garden tool to prop it up, so the weight doesn’t break the stems. Avoid using plastic to protect plants from a freeze. Plastic in contact with leaves may cause them to rot, providing an opportunity for microbes to move in.
Batten down the hatches for plant freeze protection
It’s critically important that you secure the protective covering to the ground around the base of the plant. This will not only keep the cloth from blowing away, but will also keep cold air from blowing up under the fabric and damaging your plant. Use any objects that you happen to have. This is a good time to raid that rock pile in your backyard, or grab that broken stepping stone that you haven’t tossed yet.
Remove coverings once temperatures are back above freezing
This week’s crazy cold will necessitate leaving fabric coverings on for several days. During the cold snap, be sure to check regularly to make sure that the fabric is still completely enclosing the entire plant and that it’s still weighted to the ground. But then, once the cold snap breaks and our weather returns to above freezing, go ahead and remove that covering.
Be very careful if you use any sort of lights to “heat” the area around your plants
A precious plant may be hard to replace, but not as hard as a home damaged by fire from an electrical short. If you aren’t sure that the electrical situation is safe, please err on the side of caution.
If you have specific questions, get in touch! Master Gardener volunteers are manning our help desk remotely, and we’d be happy to chat with you by phone or email: 512.710.7098 or firstname.lastname@example.org