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How to Protect Your Plants From Frost

Whether you’re planting in the early Spring or Fall, there are things you can do to be prepared to protect your plants from frost.

Gardening is always a gamble. You never know when a surprise frost is going to come, how many weeks of good weather we’ll have, or if a freak snow storm is going to wipe everything out.

how to protect plants from frost

I like this resource by the Farmer’s Almanac that gives you the estimated last and first frost dates for your area: Frost Dates.

Simply put in your zipcode and click “Change”.

However, your local topography can affect your likelihood of frost.

The Frost Dates given by the Farmer’s Almanac are for a light freeze – 29° to 32° – which will likely kill tender young plants that are not protected.

Moderate freezes are between 25° to 28° – which will likely kill most plants. Severe freezes are colder than 24° and will cause severe frost damage.

For more info on how to grow specific vegetables, check out my series: 30 Second Guides to Growing Vegetables. 

For those first early nights of frost, when there’s still weeks of good weather ahead, there are things you can do to ensure your young vegetable garden survives:

plants covered in frost

How to Protect Your Plants From Frost

Water A Day or Two Before

This may sound counter-intuitive, but perky, healthy plants are more likely to survive temporarily harsh conditions.

If the days are in the 40’s and 50’s, but the night drops down to 30’s, generally speaking it won’t be cold enough for long enough to freeze any moisture in the soil.

Mulch

If at all possible, spread compost, mulch, leaves, or other organic material around the base of your plants.

Build it up as much as possible around the plant without suffocating it.

This will provide insulation to the vulnerable stalks of your plants.

Cover

In the olden days, gardeners had glass domes they would place over each plant to act as a mini greenhouse.

While these are gorgeous (read: I need some) they’re not very practical for today’s gardener.

However, frost blankets, old bed sheets, towels, newspaper, or plastic jugs can work just as well.

Word of caution: you want to create dead space between the plant and the cold outer air.

This dead space acts as insulation.

Be very careful not to allow the protective cover to touch the plant at all.

Uncover in the morning as the temperatures rise to prevent over-heating your plants.

plants covered in frost

Heat

If you have heat lamps, or even Christmas lights that give off some heat you can string these around your plants, under your covering if you’re using a bed sheet or tarp.

Be careful the lights aren’t going to catch your cover on fire!

Another trick for capturing and distributing heat without the risk of catching your entire garden on fire is to fill large plastic jugs with water earlier in the day and spread out among your plants.

The water will heat up in the sunlight and gradually leach heat out throughout the night.

Hopefully these few tricks will help you be prepared to protect your crops and extend your growing season.

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JES

Monday 28th of March 2016

Good morning! This is just a little note to let you know that this post has been FEATURED today on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! Thank you for joining us and we would love to have you link up again this week. Love, JES

JES

Thursday 24th of March 2016

Great tips (didn't know about the watering and mulch)! We also use plastic jugs to cover or a lightweight netting over part of the garden. Thank you for joining us at the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! :)

Lauren Dibble

Friday 25th of March 2016

Just this week my husband used plastic grocery bags in a pinch and they worked brilliantly! Necessity is the mother of invention!