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Frosts and freezing weather can harm or kill entire gardens in the span of hours or days. It’s important to protect your garden from this plant-killer as early as mid-Fall! Luckily there are many ways to lessen the effects of freezing temperatures.

A freeze occurs anytime that temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes the water within a plant’s cells to expand, effectively exploding the cell walls and causing irreversible damage.

Frost, however, is similar to dew and is caused when the surface temperature of leaves drops below the freezing point.

For very fragile plants, even a short freeze or frost will result in death. But for most hardy plants destruction can be measured in just how low temperatures dropped and for how long. The colder and longer temperatures stayed low, the more likely long-term damage or eventual death is for the plant. Thankfully, there are many ways to prevent cold weather plant damage or death.

How to Protect Plants from Frost Damage

There are many preventative steps you can take to reduce the dangers of frost for almost all types of susceptible trees, shrubs, and bushes. Here are a few:

  • Take any potted plants on your deck or patio inside or move them to a garage or shed to protect them from the brunt of the cold.
  • Cover any shrubs, bushes or trees that are planted in-ground with sheets or tarps to protect them from frost or a freeze.
  • If possible, try to prevent the fabric from touching the plant by creating a frame. If the freezing fabric makes contact with tender leaves it can do much of the same damage as the frost itself.
  • Covering smaller plants or sprouts with a flower pot will protect them as well; just make sure to uncover them in the morning or when temperatures begin to climb again!
  • Avoid planting plants that are frost-tender until you are positive that the winter weather is behind you.
  • Choose plants beforehand that are hardy and will be able to tolerate the weather in your climate zone. Many trees and bushes can do surprising well in colder temperatures based upon their specific species.

Although a hard freeze or a little frost can be a death sentence for many tender or small plants, it doesn’t have to be. Just a little forethought and preparation is all it takes.