5 Tips for Saving Your Garden from Winter Frost

Katelyn Preston January 22, 2016

Winter, as we know, is not always kind on our precious greens. Those of us living in the Valley are lucky to have mild winters, so freezing temperatures aren’t much of a problem here. But from late November through February, our night temperatures sometimes fall below the freezing mark, which can mean bad news for your trees and plants if you don’t take enough precautions against frost. How do you save your garden from severe frost damage?  

Here are some tips to ensure your garden can withstand the onslaught of a frost or freeze.

Be Proactive

It’s always better to arrange plants in your garden strategically, right off the bat. This means if you have frost-sensitive plants or ones that are extremely vulnerable to colder weather, plant them in places that will remain relatively protected or warmer than the rest of your garden area. For instance, South or West sides of your yard, walls, rocks or concrete that capture and store heat from the daytime sun, or under roof overhangs, eaves or patio extensions are likely to keep your plants a little more shielded from direct frost attack.

Protect Tender Saplings and Sprouts

Tender sprouts and young plants are often the worst hit during cold weather. It is best if you keep them planted in containers until after the last frost. This allows you to bring them indoors during the freezing night and set them out at daytime when it’s warmer. Also avoid applying fertilizer or pruning them until all the danger of frost has passed to prevent a flush of new growth that can be easily damaged by the freezing temps.

If you’ve already planted your saplings in the soil, make sure to cover them overnight. An inverted bucket or flower pot, or even a layer of mulch can be used for this purpose. Stay away from plastic coverings until the temperatures stop dropping off, as they are not great for insulation. Using plastic coverings means you could still end up with damaged to your tender plants.

Use Cloth or Fabric to Cover Plants and Trees

Plastic is often our most obvious choice to cover our plants and trees but, as mentioned above, it isn’t necessarily the best choice. In fact, using plastic could do more harm than good since the coldness of the plastic that’s exposed to frost may damage plant tissues.

Instead, fabric, old bed sheets, burlap, or commercial frost cloths are better in that they trap the heat from the soil and keep your plants warmer. This is why when covering your small plants or even big trees, you should make sure the cover extends all the way to the ground to trap the most heat and insulate the plant.

Be Patient with Pruning

Frost damage often appears much worse than it is. Even if some plants look visibly damaged, they may recover and actually sprout new leaves when spring hits. Refrain from pruning the damaged plants right away because what looks dead may not actually be dead.

On the other hand, some plants may not recover as well from the frost and lose their blooms and fruits for one whole year before they start growing again. It’s best to wait until then to remove any permanent damage from stems and branches.

Learn From Your Losses

Some frost-sensitive plants may not recover at all, so in the next season, avoid planting them until you’re sure that all possibilities of freeze and frost have passed. Plus, it pays to assess the factors that may have caused damage to your plants so you can avoid them next year. 

Using these tips as a guide, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your plants healthy during the cooler months and preventing damage from frost and freeze.