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Can I save them? Protecting my plants from a freeze!

Do you start to panic when a frost or hard freeze is headed your way? Well, I do. I go into preparation mode for my plants, my animals, and my house. You spend so much time keeping those plants alive, and now the temperature is possibly going to harm them. I'm going to discuss ways to help protect them. Extreme weather is hard on them no matter what you do, but let's give them a fighting chance. Most of the time, a little help from us is all they need. So, here is the plan.

A frost/freeze is harmful to plants, because it doesn't allow water to flow through the plant cells which causes damage to plant tissue. Frost is considered temps from 32 down to 28. A freeze is below 28 degrees. So, how do we combat this problem and protect our plants?

  1. Potted plants are the most at risk. They, do not have the protection of the insulation soil creates. These plants need to be moved. Where do you move them? Not inside your home. A sudden change in temps can put your plants in shock, whether it is when you move them in or when you take them back out. The best place to move them is a garage, a shed, or basement. Keeping the frost or freeze off them is the important part. Inside a building will keep those roots from freezing inside the pots. Even though it's cold inside an unheated place, they are still out of the elements and it will be warmer.

  2. Did you know water can help protect them? Watering your plants in the afternoon before the night cold temperatures can help protect them. Moist soil has an insulating effect. Heat from the soil radiates upward toward the plant at night. Only water them before it's above freezing.

  3. Mulching is a popular and effective way to protect the in ground plants. It's like putting on a coat when you go outside. When the soil is covered, it helps with sudden temperature drop. Mulch helps insulate the soil and keeps the soil warmer. When mulching, add 3-6 inches around the base of the plant, but leave a 1-2" open spot directly around the stem or trunk of the plant. Mulch allows warmth from the soil to move up toward the plant. You can also mulch with several inches of straw, wood chips, or leaves which allows the soil to stay warmer. When temperatures warm in spring, you should thin mulch around the base of the plant to a couple inches deep.

  4. Covering individual plants is different then covering clusters of plants. When covering single plants, you can use anything around your house that creates a dome. For example: a bucket, a milk jug with the bottom cut out, or a flower pot. Uncover the following day when the sun comes out to give your plant the warmth of the sun.

  5. You can also cover individual or clusters plants using sheets, blankets, or towels. Cotton is best. A painters drop clothsand frost cloths work well . But, be sure to add stakes or something else to create a dome over them. It's best not to have anything touching your plants during the freeze. The cold and moisture can transfer through the material. Again, be sure to uncover when the sun comes out. You should add an additional layer of protection using a shower curtain, plastic or a tarp on top of the cloth. Don't let the plastic touch the plant. Make sure all your coverings and pots go all the way to the soil so that no moisture or cold moves under or the wind blows the covers off. Weigh down edges with rocks or something else heavy.

  6. The important thing to remember is that no covering should touching your plants. Create a tent over them. If you do all this, you should have success saving your plants or at least minimizing damage. Hope this helps!! Good luck protecting those plants.

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