Those frosty mornings may be breathtaking to look at, but they can also be tough on our plants. When frost collects on leaves, it causes the fluids in the leaf to freeze and expand. When this happens, the cells inside will rupture, and they cannot recover. Frost may only cause damage to some leaves, or it may kill the plant completely. Luckily, we don’t have to stand by and watch our favorite plants die this winter. Here are five easy ways we can protect them from the frost.
Choose Hardy Plants
The best way to keep your plants safe from frost is to choose ones that are hardy for our region. Our garden center in Lothian, MD, is in zone 6b, which means it gets down to -5 ̊F. Our locations in Belle Haven and Alexandria, VA, vary from zone 7a-7b, which means the minimum winter temperatures can get as low as 0 ̊F. When you’re picking out plants for landscaping, check the tags to see what the USDA Hardiness zone is, and try to choose options that are hardy for Zone 7 or lower. Our staff can help you find beautiful options that will survive through our long and frosty winters.
If you do fall in love with something that is on the more delicate side, place the plant in a location where it will have shelter from the worst of the winter weather. Near the house on a south-facing wall will give those tender plants a little extra protection.
It’s essential to lay down a thick layer of mulch over the root zone of trees and shrubs in the fall. A 3-4 inch layer of mulch insulates the roots of trees and shrubs, protecting them from the harsh freeze and thaw cycles that can damage your plants.
Cover Your Plants
One of the most popular ways to protect plants from frost is to cover them for the night when you’re expecting a hard freeze. Shrubs and smaller evergreen trees will benefit from a burlap wrap for the winter. It’s best to place 3-4 stakes around a shrub and wrap several layers of burlap around the stakes. Make sure to distribute the burlap right down to the ground and over the top of the shrub for maximum protection. An evergreen hedge can benefit from a burlap windbreak, made with stakes and burlap, that blocks the prevailing winds from whipping through the bushes.
For smaller individual plants, it’s a good idea to invest in covers. These are little tents that you can just set over top of the plants you want to protect. They trap the warmer air inside and stave off the frost. If daytime temperatures are above freezing, remove the covers during the day.
For larger plants like tomatoes, or for rows, you can use frost protection cloth. Frost protection cloth is a thick, dense fleece that is lightweight, so it doesn’t crush plants and still traps the warm air inside. These should also be removed during the day if temperatures will be above freezing.
Water Before it Freezes
Watering your trees, shrubs, and perennials well in the fall is a key part of protecting them from frost as well. Shrubs and trees should have a good, deep soak in the fall a few days before the ground freezes. The combination of harsh wind and freezing temperatures can really dry things out. Trees and shrubs that are well hydrated and have lots of water stored in their root system stand a much better chance of surviving windy, frosty days than ones that are left dry when the ground freezes.
Bring Them Inside
If you’ve got trees or shrubs, or other perennials that you want to keep through the winter, you can bring them indoors. If you see a hard frost in the forecast, bring them inside for the night, and set them back out in the morning. Some plants, like mums, need winter dormancy, so you can bring them in and leave them somewhere cool and dark for the winter months.
The best way to keep our plants safe from frost is to choose ones that are hardy for our local area. However, if you’ve fallen in love with something that’s a little bit outside of our zone, you can still easily protect it from freezing with a protected location, and some of the tips above. If you’re not sure about the hardiness of your plants, or if you need some supplies to guard your plants against frost, visit us at one of our garden centers. We can tell you what plants will need protection, and we can get you set up with everything you need to keep all your plants safe this winter.