Preparing your Plants for a Light Freeze

It looks like our temperatures could dip below freezing for 3 – 5 hours early Saturday morning.   With temperatures at 30 – 32 degrees for just a few hours, we shouldn’t see much plant damage – only our tender tropicals will be effected.    Just this week, I noticed new growth on firebush shrubs that had previously shed their leaves for winter.

Everything we grow here at the nursery shouldn’t need any special treatment BUT  our homes is another story.    When I get home, I will want protect my kalanchoes, which are just pushing up bloom stems, and all my pots of succulents and tropicals.    And my process is pretty simple.

When temperatures may dip below freezing:

  • Move tropical potted plants & succulents  inside or group them together in a protected area so they may be easily covered.   Placing them snug up against the house or, even better, in a corner, adds a degree or two to the temperature and offers some added protection.
  • Water newly planted trees and shrubs well; water tropicals and potted plants.  Do NOT water succulents; their leaves hold water which expands during a freeze causing the leaves to burst.
  • If your newly planted trees and shrubs haven’t been mulched, add some now.
  • Cover tropicals and tender plants with sheets, household blankets, burlap, or frost blankets which can be purchased at your local garden center.   
  • Bring fabric all the way to the ground allowing heat from the soil to be trapped around the plant.  Use bricks or anything with a little weight to hold the ends down.
  • Everything in the vegetable garden should be hardy at 30 degrees BUT if you couldn’t wait and have planted tomato or pepper transplants, they will need protection.   You can place a clay pot over them or an empty gallon milk jug with the bottom cut away.
  • Uncover all plants as temperatures rise to prevent the foliage from scorching.
  • Avoid using plastic as a plant covering.   If you do,  you must be diligent about removing it once the temperatures rise.   It doesn’t take long for the sun to scorch plastic covered plants.
  • These temperatures shouldn’t harm citrus, mango, or avocado trees.

I’m actually looking forward to this cold weekend and catching up on some reading.

Mary Beth

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