Unless you live somewhere that is especially hot, then chances are you have heard a frost warning once or twice on the evening news. But what does frost do to plants exactly, and how does it affect them? If frost is a part of the natural cycle of the world, how could it possibly be bad? These questions may seem a little silly, but they are ones that I have heard time and again (most recently from my children who are starting to get interested in gardening).
Simply put, frost will affect plants in two ways; first, by freezing and rupturing the cells in the plant tissue, and second by freezing the soil which could possibly interfere with the water supply going to the plant roots. Because of these two ways that frost can damage the plants in your garden or landscape, frost is probably one of the most damaging and problematical aspects of weather. That being said, there are some methods that you can use to help protect your plants from the frost.
- Known your weather patterns. The main element in protecting your plants from frost is to study and know your weather patters. While this may not allow you to pinpoint the weather for every single day, it will give you enough information to make some good general plans. If you take a look at the frost patterns for the year before you will have a good idea of what to expect for the coming year. Most of this information can be found at your local county extension office, weather station, or nursery.
- Know your plants. Take time to learn the plants in your hardiness zone. Not all plants are affected by frost in exactly the same way. If you choose plants that are more appropriate for your particular zone, then they will have a better chance of surviving the frost and cold weather that come each and every year.
- Prepare the soil. One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep your plants safe from frost is to prepare the soil. This simply means that you keep the soil free from any weeds, compacted properly, and as moist as possible. The reason that you want to keep the soil moist is elementary school science: the more liquid something has in it, then the longer it takes to freeze. Frost is generally not going to be able to freeze the soil solid.
- Use mulch. Mulch acts like an insulator, and can help protect the plants from sudden cold snaps, and even longer cold periods. Since it does so well as an insulator, it will have no problem keeping the soil and roots of the plants in your garden nice and warm.