All gardeners know that we will be punished for anything we do ahead of schedule. Yesterday it was in the low 80s, today it’s the low 60s, and now we might be looking at frost over the weekend. So all those tender seedlings we optimistically transplanted are at risk.
How does freeze hurt?
While light freezes usually don’t do too much harm, deep freezes can cause the cells within your plants to burst causing severe damage to your plant’s foliage and killing its blooms. Plants will also die from desiccation (drying out) which occurs when the plant can’t process enough water. This is a problem as we often don’t want to water our plants in freezing temperatures as it can cause the plant’s internal temperature to drop even lower. The cold winds can cause a plant to dry out, so it is still important to water plants in cold weather.
Most annual plants and vegetables weren’t meant to survive freezing and frigid temperatures, so one way to protect them is to move them into a warmer area if possible. An area such as the garden shed or garage is perfect for container plants and annuals as they usually remain a few degrees warmer than the outdoors. They don’t need the super-warm conditions of the house, which can make re-acclimatizing outdoors more difficult. If you have transplants in the middle of the hardening off process, bring them indoors at night and outdoors during the day until the temperature rises above freezing at night.
There are excellent frost protection supplies you can get, and we highly recommend the Easy Tunnel and the Kozy Koat for both spring and fall crops. But for right now, rely on the tried-and-true home remedies:
Lay a lightweight fabric or plastic sheet over tender plants in the garden. Old shower curtains work well, as do old bedsheets. Remember to lift them when the temperature rises above freezing, though, because they don’t admit as much light and air (and almost no water!) as plants need.
Move potted plants to a frost-free location, such as the garden shed or garage. If possible, just get them a few degrees above the outside temperature — they don’t need the super-warm conditions of the house, which can make re-acclimatizing outdoors more difficult.
If you have transplants in the middle of the hardening off process, bring them indoors at night and outdoors during the day until the temperature rises above freezing at night.
Avoid watering plants late in the day, and cease watering at all if a freeze is forecast.