Because weather is so unpredictable, you never know when an unexpected frost may occur. If you find yourself unprepared for a sudden burst of cold weather, here are a few quick and inexpensive ways to protect plants from frost. Chances are, you already have most of the materials at home or in the garage.
Which plants should you protect?
It’s always helpful to know what type of plants are in your yard and garden, as some are more frost sensitive than others. If you are unsure of what you have, ask a professional gardener or landscaper for advice, or pick up an inexpensive book on botanicals to identify them yourself. Speaking in general terms, some of the types of plants that need protection from frost include:
- Tropical plants
- Vegetable and fruit plants
- Potted plants
- Actively blooming plants
- Soft woods
When to protect plants from frost?
Plants are most vulnerable at night when temperatures drop and moisture is in the air. Therefore, it’s best to begin protecting them before dark. You’ll need to have enough time to be able to grab a few quick supplies and quickly cover and insulate outdoor plants to keep them from being damaged.
Inexpensive items you can use:
Newspaper – Newspaper is lightweight and breathable, providing just the right amount of protection from frost. Tent sections of newspaper over plants and use heavy stones to keep the newspaper weighted down. Newspaper can also be used to insulate the soil around a potted plant and help keep it warm.
Linens – A spare bed sheet, lightweight drop cloth, thin towel, or other large scrap of fabric, will work in a pinch when you need to protect plants from frost. Avoid using anything that is too heavy, however, as it can sag and cause damage to the plant.
Wicker baskets – Large wicker baskets are great for insulating small plants, as they can be flipped upside down to keep them protected from wind and frost. Bushel baskets, plastic clothes hampers, and other sturdy containers can work just as well.
Clothes hangers – Clothes hangers can be bent and fashioned into a quick wire foundation that can be used to support a bed sheet. Simply bend the hanger straight and insert the end into the soil around the plant. Bend a second hanger in the same fashion, making an arch at the top of the plant.
Lawn chairs – Short on time and need to create a sturdy foundation in a flash? Place a lawn chair or a small outdoor table atop the plant to support a heavy blanket or canvas. This will keep the plant warm without weighing down limbs or branches.
2-liter bottle – Cut the top off an empty 2-liter soda bottle and place it on top of a small plant or seedling.
Milk jug – Cut the top off an empty milk jug and set it over a small plant or seedling to protect them from harsh weather.
Stay away from plastic – Many people shield their plants from cold weather with plastic, but this is a bad idea. Plastic is not a breathable material and can trap moisture, increasing the risk of plant damage.
And remember, if you have a potted plant that can be brought indoors, that is always the smartest option. The plants can stay indoors until cold weather passes and then brought back out when the weather is warmer.
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