Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Steps to Take When Frost Threatens Plants
Is Jack Frost nipping at your plants? One of the worries of gardeners, especially in the North, is whether frosts and freezing weather will damage their plants. It’s wise to prepare your garden for the colder months ahead to both protect plants but also keep your garden soil in good condition. We’ll show you how!
Protect Soil in Winter
Keep soil covered to protect beneficial soil life such as worm-, bug- and fungi-happy. Before it gets too cold, add a thick layer of organic matter to the surface to keep soil life fed and protect the soil itself from erosion.
Keep row covers at the ready, stored somewhere dry, neatly rolled up and off the ground to keep them away from vermin. Hose down then dry dirty polythene covers so they’re ready to use when frost threatens.
Homemade Crop Protection
Clear plastic bottles cut in half are ideal for protecting individual small plants, either outdoors or as an added layer of insulation inside the greenhouse.
Or make a mini hoop house by securing plastic onto homemade hoops of PVC water pipe, slid onto lengths of rebar hammered into the ground. Connect the hoops at the top with a central ridge of piping. It’s an effective way to keep winter hardy salads and vegetables safe from harsh weather.
Protecting Root Crops from Frost
In milder regions, root crops such as carrots and beets can be left in the ground until needed. Some, like parsnips, actually become sweeter after a frost. Mulch your root vegetables with a thick layer of compost, straw, dried leaves or leaf mold, but if the ground is likely to freeze solid for a long period, dig them up and store them somewhere cool, dry and frost-free.
In winter the biggest enemy of crops in pots is persistently wet potting soil. Make sure there is adequate drainage by placing containers onto pot feet (or improvise with small rocks).
Some containers can crack in very cold conditions. To prevent this, wrap pots in bubble plastic or burlap. Move pots somewhere more sheltered if possible, for instance against a South-facing house wall, or into a greenhouse.
Insulate Your Greenhouse
It makes more sense to protect individual plants inside a greenhouse rather than trying to heat the entire structure. Use row cover fabric to wrap up frost-sensitive plants. If you must use heat, screen off an area of the greenhouse and heat this smaller space instead.
Use old polystyrene fish boxes to insulating smaller plants like winter salad leaves. You can fill them with potting soil and plant directly (most have drainage holes), or just place trays and pots in the boxes. Keep them extra snug by covering them with fabric or plastic overnight.
Know Your First Frost Date
Know when to expect your first frost so you can effectively plan your frost protection. See our custom Frost Date Calculator.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather forecast as well.
Our online Garden Planner also uses your exact location to anticipate the date when this is likely to occur.
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