Friday, March 18, 2016

Protecting Plants from Frost

These past few weeks have brought us plentiful sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures here in Central Virginia. I don't know about you, but I've been outside gardening! Cleaning out the perennial beds, getting a head start on the weeds, planting up the window boxes with cool season annual flowers...spring is definitely in the air.

Then along comes Mother Nature with...what? Snow showers? 39 degree temperatures and rain/snow in the forecast?

Welcome to spring in Central Virginia, where March can roar in like a lion, gambol about like a lamb, roar a bit more, then settle down into lamb-like softness.

For gardeners, the thought of another bout of snow, ice and cold temperatures can send us into a complete panic. What about the daffodils? The pansies? The lettuce?

Relax. For the most part, if you've followed the guidelines for our region and planted only cool-season or early spring annuals and vegetables, you're safe. If you feel you want to protect your plants a little bit more, here's what you can do:

  • Before the storm or cold temperatures arrive, pull mulch back over newly emerging perennials that you think may be in danger from cold, frost or snow. 
  • Cover tender plants with a cloth blanket, a sheet or newspaper. Do not use plastic. Plastic transfers cold rather than keeps it away from plants.
  • Bring any pots or containers you can carry indoors for the day. One day in your garage or shed won't harm them.
Flowers such as daffodils and crocus can withstand a day of cold temperatures without problems. You may lose some flowers if it truly dips below freezing. You can cut the flowers and enjoy them indoors. Any newly emerging buds should be fine and the leaves will be fine. Pansies can withstand a day of chill just fine, and will spring back within a day or two as long as the temperatures rise above freezing after the initial storm has passed.

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