Ways To Protect Your Plants From Winter Chill

As the year enters its coldest phase, you want to protect the garden beds from snow, and you also want to protect plants from frost. Protecting plants is essential as you have worked hard in your garden.

You want to keep your plants alive when temperatures dip, as light dust of snow to light frost might not harm your plants. But when freezing temperatures start creeping in, it can damage your fragile plants. Heavy snow can even snap leaves, stems, and tree branches.

Potted plants can be taken indoors, but newly planted trees to other plants are always at risk. Even your evergreen plants can get cold snaps when cold temperatures are prolonged, so if you do not want your container plants and tender plants to end up on the compost heap.

We recommend looking at the following winter care tips.

What Is Frost And How Does It Affect Your Tender Plants

frosted ground

According to National Geographic Org, frost is a water vapor or a water gas form that becomes solid. You find frost forming on different objects, including potted plants, vegetable patches, and flowers in garden beds.

While not all plants die from frost, some fragile plants, like tropical ones, can. These plants stand outside in cold weather filled with moisture. You can even find frost in regions with a lot of fog.

So, when the outside surface cools down past the dew point, you get frost forming. The dew point is where the air becomes cold, and the water vapor becomes liquid. Hence, the liquid freezes, and if you have freezing temperatures, you find bits of ice forming.

Most of the time, you find frost forming in your low-lying regions as the warm air rises while the cool air sinks and is denser than the warm air. Thus, more water molecules are present in the cool air and start to collect in valleys.

You find frost forming at night as you get colder temperatures, and once the sun rises to warm up the air around frosted objects, it melts, resulting in frost damage.

Different Types of Frost Found in Cold Weather

ice crystals

The most common frost, known as hoarfrost or radiation frost, forms tiny ice crystals on exposed objects like plants, windows, and more outside. It works like a refrigerator freezing the water.

Then you have activation frost that forms small ice spikes when the cold wind blows over tree branches and other surfaces. You also get window frost when glass becomes exposed to cold air with moist air on the inside.

Lastly, rime can form fast in cold winter and wet climates. You also find it forming in windy weather and looks like solid ice. You see this on ships that travel from cold places in the Artic Ocean covering the ship.

Still, there is one more frost, known as black frost or hard frost. The frost occurs when the humidity levels are very low and cannot reach a dew point to create the white frost as temperatures drop below the freezing point.

Hence, the plant cells freeze and expand, breaking down the plant tissues and causing the leaves to turn black and even kill the plants. In South Africa, it is a common thing to happen in the lower regions.

The only difference between black and white frost is the degree or the state of coldness to cause the water to freeze.

What Plants Should You Protect From The Winter Sun and Cold

Not all vegetation needs protection from snow to frost in your yard. Still, you can provide a few categories with a cold framing, as these are vulnerable plants when the weather forecast shows it will get cold.

plants cold frames

So if you have young plants with new growth, delicate plants like perennials, half-hardy species, and subtropical and tropical plants, you need to protect your plants. Signs of delicate plants damaged by cold weather are:

  • Blackened foliage

  • Limp growth

  • Leaves turn green on your evergreen plants

Hence, it helps to research the hardiness conditions of your plants and provide them with winter protection as the cold weather increases.

When comparing your frost-tender plants with vegetable crops, there are some benefits when there is a light frost.

Your vegetables can taste better, and you can find some veg that is even frost tolerant to frost resistant, like kale.

Tips To Winter Proof Your Garden to Potted Plants

The best way to determine when the right time is to provide your citrus trees, annual plants, or other precious plants with frost protection is to check the weather forecast. Unfortunately, as you know, you cannot always be a garden miracle worker.

Hence, look out for cloudy nights that insulate the search and sudden swings in those temperatures. The same applies to clear skies as they allow heat to escape. At the same time, calm conditions with a bit of wind will most likely reach those freezing temperatures.

On the other hand, you have very low air movement that brings warmer currents not distributed over the ground. So, check the frost dates online for your region when you can expect frost to provide delicate perennials to other plants with winter protection.

Here is how you can protect plants from frost and other winter conditions.

Bring Potted Plants Indoors

indoor plants during cold season

You can protect your fragile plants when you bring potted plants inside from the cold. Placing containers indoors will provide them with frost protection as they are more susceptible to damage from the cold.

The reason is that they do not have the same plant protection as insulation as plants growing in garden beds. You can overwinter your smaller plants in the garden room or a frost-free greenhouse.

While your larger plants can handle a light freeze, you can keep them on the porch or in the garage where it is not too warm. The reason is that most plants go into dormancy in winter to prepare themselves for new growth in spring.

The important thing is to provide your plants with a temporary cold structure in a sheltered location.

Add Layers of Mulch

add layer of mulch with your plants @flickr

Add a thick layer of dry mulch to protect plants’ roots to fruit trees from the cold and when the weather warms up. You can use wood chips or straw around garden beds’ borderlines or trees. Doing this protects the crowns as well.

Doing this creates a barrier around a garden bed, especially when using leaf mold or even piles of leaves.

Cover Plants To Protect Them From The Freeze Thaw Cycles

As you plan to insulate tender plants indoors, you also need to care for your plants outside. The best way to protect fragile plants outside is to provide them with a temporary cold frame like a horticultural fleece.

horticultural fleece

An alternative is to go the cheaper way with old bed sheets, bubble wrap, and more to prevent unexpected cold snaps. With it, you provide a protective cover to protect plants in the garden. The best way to do this is to use stakes around your plants to cover them with the chosen material to form a tent.

You can then weigh down the corners to prevent the wind from blowing them away at night and remove it in the morning to avoid a build-up of soil moisture. As soil temperatures also play an essential role, they allow the winter sun to warm up the ground to protect your plants’ roots.

You can use this method on tree ferns, agapanthus, and other tender perennials, protecting them from frost damage. Add some burlap around young trees using horticultural fleece or blankets to protect fruit trees.

Winter Watering Dry Soil in The Morning

watering plants in the morning

You might not think your plants need watering, but they do even in winter. A morning watering schedule can protect your plants from frost damage at night. In addition, watering plants in the morning helps as the sun heats the soil temperature during the day to provide insulation for the soil surface and plants.

Lift And Store Your Annual Plants to Fragile Plants

greenhouse in the winter

If your plants have bloomed and died down, you can lift them out to prevent damage. You can store tubers, bulbs, and roots in a cool place like a shed or a greenhouse. It is a great way to overwinter your begonias to dahlias to replant in spring.

Protect Frost Tender Plants With a Cloche

cloche  @flickr

A what you may think. A cloche works well for a vegetable garden as it can protect smaller plants and seedlings. It is a bell-shaped cover made of plastic or glass placed over your plants. Or you can always go the recycling way, cutting off the bottom section of large milk containers into plastic bottles.

As with the covers, you need to remove the cloche during the day for your outdoor plant to benefit from the warmth.

Move Plants Into a Cold Frame

cold frame

After checking the local average frost dates, you can place your young annuals in some shelter like a cold frame. Still, ensure your indoor plants have enough ventilation on warm days. You need not spend a fortune to protect tender plants and can make one yourself:

  1. Take some metal rods and bend them into a loop like a wire coat hanger.

  2. Insert the metal loop ends into the ground on both sides of your plants or crops.

  3. Then layer a transparent plastic sheet to cover plants over the frame and secure it.

Wrap Large Containers

wrapping plant during winter

Okay, there are times you cannot protect plants in huge containers. So, the chance to bring potted plants is not on the list. But you have another option: grouping them or placing them in a sheltered spot.

Then wrap the container using bubble wrap or straw to prevent the roots from freezing. You can also raise the containers with pot feet or rest them on bricks as it allows the water to drain away.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no rule saying you cannot cover plants from frost using a plastic bag. But if you do, we recommend using stakes and placing a large garbage bag over your plant. The bag must not touch the plant surface and must go down to the ground. As with any plant cover, we recommend removing it during the day.

You can cut out the bottom section with a cardboard box if you have no choice. Then tape the top flaps together and cut along the three sides at the top to create a hinged lid. Then set it over your plant, close the cover at night, and open it in the morning.

Winter watering can help protect your plants from light frost, as dry soil is more prone to shock plants than moist soil. The reason is that moist soils hold water that provides insulation for the roots when it does frost. Still, skip the watering if there is a hard freeze, or the ground is frozen.

Most plants need protection from a freeze warning of 30°F (-2°C) or lower. But your very fragile plants need protection before the temperatures drop that low.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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