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October 7, 2010 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Protecting Outdoor Plants from Frost

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

The best way to protect outdoor plants from frost is to be both vigilant and informed. Once plants have been placed in the ground they are at the mercy of the weather. Check to determine which planting zone you live in, stay abreast of changing weather, and be prepared.

Spring Frost Warnings

The plants that most often sustain frost damage are young plants such as soft woods, blooming plants, potted plants and vegetables. Gardeners need to be aware. If spring planting begins too early, Mother Nature may put a kibosh on the whole process. It's as simple as that. Cold snaps and late frosts do occur from time to time. That's why it's always smart to have a Plan B. Even after a zone is given the go-ahead to plant, frost may occur. When frost is imminent, it's time to set Plan B into action.

Plan B should consist of materials to either cover early vegetables individually or to cover entire areas of the garden in one fell swoop. Individual vegetables can be covered with milk jugs or large cans, while whole areas can be covered with old sheets.

  • Plastic milk jugs can be used because the plastic is not draped over the plant as a plastic bag would be, and because milk jugs are made of durable thick plastic, they tend to act as a better insulator.
  • Old sheets are the perfect covering for a larger area because they are thick enough to keep the frost off, thin and light enough to prevent damaging the plants, and large enough to cover several plants at once.

Never use plastic bags. Plastic bags are too thin to insulate properly and because they hold in moisture, the air within the bag can actually become colder than the outside air. When this happens, it's easy to freeze an entire plant.

Fall Frost Warnings

Frost can occur in the early spring or in the late fall. If frost gets on the vegetables late in the season there is one other thing that seems to work, but only if you get to the plants before the sun does.

  • Garden Hose: Use a garden hose with the nozzle on the fine mist setting. Gently spray the frosted plants before the sun touches them and you have a good chance of saving the plant.
  • Heaters or Small Fires for Produce: If it's been a hard frost, however, it may be too late for your plants. When fruit trees are in danger of frost, fruit growers use heaters or place small fires between the rows to keep the plants from succumbing to the cold.


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