How to Protect Plants from a Late Freeze

By by Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer
March 20, 2012, 4:54:53 AM EDT


Though March appears to have brought unseasonably warm temperatures with record-setting highs for this time of year, it's always possible that a late and haunting winter freeze could creep in.

With the warm weather allowing plants to bud earlier this year, a freeze could be all it takes to damage or even kill your fruit trees, vegetable garden, or decorative flowers. Follow these tips to keep your plants flourishing in even the most mercurial of times:

When anticipating a freeze, cover your plants overnight with burlap or a bed sheet to act as an insulation against the frost. If possible, shield the plants first with coffee cans or tomato cages and lay the insulation over top.

The coffee cans or tomato cages will protect your plants fragility from the weight of the burlap, while the burlap acts as an insulation against the freeze, allowing the frost to settle on the cover instead of your plants.

Be sure to remove the burlap from your plants in the morning, however, as oxygen and sunlight are essential to their survival.

Additionally, place a bucket of hot water beneath the cover around your plants overnight. Water releases heat slower than air, so the bucket will maintain heat and help to keep your plants warm.

Following this same logic, watering your plants the day before a freeze will also help. Moist soil will keep in heat and help to insulate the roots of your plant.

If you notice that your plants are losing water from their leaves following a freeze, apply water to thaw the soil. The frozen ground will make water unavailable to your plants and could dry them out.

Lastly, remember to bring potted plants indoors as they can be extremely susceptible to frost damage since their roots are not underground.

To assess the damages following the freeze, examine the inside of various buds several days later. If the inside is a dark brown or black, it is likely that your plant has been damaged.

If there is no discoloration, you might just be the first on the block this year with a vibrant flower garden and fresh vegetables.

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