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Frost Protection for Your Plants

Jan 02, 2017 02:22PM ● By Elena Hutslar

By Shannon Hopkins, Nursery Manager, The Ruth Bancroft Garden

An early morning drive after a frosty night can be an interesting experience, especially if your neighbors are gardeners. Bed sheets, towels and other items hastily gathered from closets can be seen draped over tender plants in an effort to avoid frost burn. There are so many opinions on how to protect plants that it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. So, what does work in our area? Let’s discuss some simple options from least to most effective.

Natural elements: The use of large boulders in the landscape can create mini microclimates around your plants. The boulders are warmed by the sun and release that heat during the night. Unfortunately, the radiated heat is sometimes exhausted by the time the frosts begin. They do give excellent cover for roots, allowing plants to rebound after a good frost.

Holiday lights: These do more than direct Santa to the chimney. (If you’re listening, fat man, I’d really like power tools this year.) Lights give off small amounts of heat that can be beneficial during a minor frost. If a frost is expected, leave the lights on until the sun makes an appearance.

Frost cloth: Sheets and towels are ok, but if the local Homeowners Association comes knocking, you didn’t hear that from us. The key is to create an air gap and not rest the material directly on the plants as that will cause freeze burn. Use bamboo stakes to create a teepee or PVC pipe to create a hoop. The best way to protect plants is with (actual) frost cloth. This can be purchased in degree ratings. We use and sell frost cloth, and when applied correctly, it protects plants down to the low 20s. Want to know more? Stop by and talk with our knowledgeable staff about how to protect your investment this winter.