Meteorologists are talking about frost. That means winter can’t be far off. But what is frost and what does it mean for your landscape? Frost is ice crystals that form when the temperature dips down near freezing. When it’s warmer, we call this moisture dew.
The official frost temperature is 36°F. When the temperature reaches 32°F, it’s a freeze. Frost and freeze warnings are issued so you can take appropriate action to protect your plants, especially those that are very tender. The most serious are killing frosts – those that are actually freezes. They are cold enough to kill all but the hardiest plants and signal the end of the growing season.
At the first warning, your tender, container plants should be brought inside, even if just in the garage for the night. Don’t worry if there are no windows in the garage. It’s dark outside, too. You can take them back outside in the morning. By this time, you should have decided what to do with these plants for the winter. The choices are to bring them indoors, put them in a greenhouse or in a cold frame.
If your vegetable garden still has ripening crops in it, these plants should be covered for the night. Failure to do so will surely result in dead plants in the morning. Any flowering annuals will likely be dead in the morning, leaving you with the task of removing them and throwing them in the compost pile.
Be sure to wrap tender trees and shrubs with burlap. This is primarily to shelter them from buffeting winds and road salt spray. The wrapping may also be sufficient to raise the temperature inside enough to prevent frost from forming. The best practice, however, is to not gamble and plant trees and shrubs that are rated for a zone or two colder than ours.
Mother Nature is in control. There’s no changing her mind but there are opportunities to protect those plants that may be damaged by her fury. Heed these tips and be happy.