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How to Protect Plants from Frost and Other Winter Damage

As we enter late November and the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, one thing becomes increasingly clear: winter is coming. And along with the cold weather comes frost and ice, both of which can wreak havoc on your plants and shrubs. But don’t worry. Winter may be considered the “offseason” for gardening and landscaping; however, there are steps you can take to prepare and protect your landscape.

4 tips to protect plants from winter damage:

  1. Fall is a great time to do the tune-ups necessary to protect your garden from winter damage. According to Better Homes and Gardens (http://www.bhg.com), a key part of preparing your garden for winter is cleaning up and covering up. Clean up by paring back your perennials and remove any slimy or wet leaves, as unwanted bugs and diseases can thrive in this environment. Cover up to ensure soil temperatures remain even and consistent. Simply spread a fresh, thick layer of mulch over your existing gardens for extra insulation.
  2. Another method for protecting plants from frost and other winter damage is the use of plant covers. Plant covers are a simple and effective way to protect plants from the cold weather. They work by providing a warm, safe haven for plants to hide out until the spring thaw. One type of plant cover is called a frost blanket.

    Frost blankets protect your garden from winter damage by keeping cold air out, while allowing water and sunlight in. Typically, frost blankets are made from lightweight, breathable fabric and are usually UV-stabilized. This means they remain durable when exposed to sunlight and can last for several growing seasons.

    Row covers are similar to frost blankets, but they cover a larger area and are meant for an entire garden, as opposed to a single plant. You can read more about both frost blankets and row covers over at http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/protect-plants-with-row-covers.

  3. Watering plants a few days before frost is expected is another way to prepare your garden for winter. Why does watering help? Wet soil holds more heat than dry soil, so when you water your plants before the first big frost you are, essentially, helping the soil retain heat. Be careful, however, not to water the plants too late in the season, as that can lead to frost heave.

    Frost heave occurs when the soil is exposed to freezing temperatures, while also being exposed to an excess amount of moisture. This results in alternating freezing and thawing conditions. The cold air that gets into the ground freezes the moisture that is already in the soil, turning it into small ice particles. These particles then form a layer of ice, which can lift the soil – and the plant – right out of the ground. This obviously has a very adverse effect on the plant and your garden. Luckily, this is avoidable as long as you take the right steps to protect your plans from frost.

  4. Unfortunately, these tips may not be enough to fully protect all of your plants from frost and other forms of winter damage. For more tender plants, wintering indoors or in a cold frame may be the best idea.

    A cold frame is a short, enclosed box with a transparent roof (to let the sunlight in). It’s like a little greenhouse and its pretty easy to build one yourself. Cold frames provide the right amount of protection and insulation to keep more delicate plants alive through winter. According to Gardening Know How, cold frames are also a great way to harden plants prior to transplantation and to store hardy vegetables during the cold season.

    For more information about cold frames and how you can implement them in your winter gardening to protect your plants from frost and winter damage, check out http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/building-cold-frames.htm.

Winter can be a dangerous time of year for your garden. But as long as you take the right steps and use a little gardening savvy it is relatively easy to make sure your plants survive. Whether you utilize winter plant covers, such as frost blankets, clean up and water your garden before the first frost, or to do all of the above tips combined, the time to start is now!

All of these tips are relatively simple to implement; in fact, most can be completed by one person without spending a ton of money. If you need assistance, however, be sure to contact the plant specialists at Five Seasons Landscape Management for help and advice.