As the summer months wane and we move into fall, the first frost is right around the corner. You’ve spent the warm months tending to your garden, so of course, you care about how it will fare over the winter! The primary question often asked is whether or not frost will kill your plants.
It can be one of the worst feelings you experience, to wake up one morning, glance out your window, and see the plants you’ve worked hard to maintain all summer browned and wilted under the weight of an unexpected frost.
The answer to the question of whether or not frost kills plants can vary depending on the type of plant, the type of garden, location, sunlight, and other factors. Understanding your garden from design to implementation is the key to planning for a yard that will look great through all the seasons.
It’s always a good idea to create a plan with the help of a landscape design pro, like those at the Ohio Valley Group. We’ll come out and help you understand how frost and winter weather will affect the plants you have, and what you can do to mitigate damage.
What is frost and what kinds of weather should I look out for?
The definition of frost is simple. It’s what happens with the ambient air temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This leads to the formation of ice crystals on plant leaves, which could injure or even kill tender plants.
Prime conditions for frost are calm, clear skies and afternoon temperatures that start to fall. When conditions are right, the result could be below-freezing temperatures that could kill all plants but the most cold-tolerant.
If you spot some clouds in the sky, you may be in luck. Plants are generally safe when clouds are visible even if the temperature is cool. The radiant heat from the sun during the day is trapped below the clouds, which keeps ground temperatures a bit warmer, protecting your plants for just a little longer.
The wind is also your friend for a similar reason. As temperatures fall, the coldest air tends to settle on the ground. Even the most gentle of breezes can help to prevent the cold air from settling around your garden beds. That said, if the wind itself is below freezing, it could be very damaging to your plants.
What can I do to protect my plants from frost?
The most important thing to do is to understand the kinds of plants you have in your garden, and how the weather affects your property. Knowing which of your plants are hearty, and which are not is key in deciding how to help them over-winter. It’s also important to keep an eye on immature plants. If they are still sporting new growth as they enter the fall, they’ll be more susceptible to frost.
If there is frost in the forecast, the best thing to do is to cover your plants to retain as much moisture and soil heat as you can and also to protect against strong winds. Strong winds can increase the rate of drying and cooling.
The best materials to use are things like baskets, tarps, newspapers, straw, and other insulating things. There are products designed specifically for covering plants in the winter that you can find at your garden store.
You must cover your plants before the temperatures drop. This ensures that you trap and keep as much heat in your soil and around your plants as possible. Also make sure to weigh down your covers so that strong winds won’t blow them away, leaving your poor plants to suffer directly from the frost.
It seems counterintuitive, but you’ll want to keep the soil moist if there is frost in the forecast. Water your plants frequently in the lead up to frost. Commercial growers often leave sprinklers on overnight to cover the plants with water. When the water on leaves freezes, it releases heat, protecting them even though covered in ice. This tactic only works if sprinklers run continuously when temperatures are below freezing, so it is not recommended for home gardeners.
How can I make sure that my garden is protected?
Experienced gardeners know to design a garden from the start that looks great and includes native plants that will thrive in our regional weather. The absolute best thing you can do to protect your garden from frost damage is to plant the correct plants from the very beginning! Your best bet is to fill your garden with flowers, shrubs, and trees that thrive in our local climate.
We’re here to help! Our experts know exactly what native plants not only look great but also thrive in the Ohio winter. Give us a call to see how we can help you keep your garden looking great all year round.