BCLS Landscape Services of Central Virginia
Our landscape management service take us to a lot of commercial properties around our area and we always get the same question from our clients when it starts to get colder, “How do I protect my plantings at home?”. Whether it is a late fall chill or early spring freeze, a little frost can be deadly to many plants. Tender seedlings, newly planted flowers, shrubs and trees and even established plants in areas that are not used to cold are at risk when the temperatures dip. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take when a cold front approaches to be sure your plants stay toasty warm.
If your plants are thriving and healthy, they will be better able to survive even severe temperature fluctuations. Take precautions throughout the year to keep your plants disease- and pest-free, and keep up on pruning tasks so your plants are always in the best shape. Water all plants appropriately so they are not drought-stressed when cold approaches, and use mulch at the base of plants, around shrubs and in flowerbeds to preserve moisture and minimize weeds. All of these basic, healthy steps will help your plants better survive when frost passes by.
- Bring the plants indoors – nothing will work as good as bringing your tender plants inside where it’s warm and dry. Get the bulbs in as well – dig them out, transfer them to a container and store them indoors.
- Supply enough water– more water before the frost comes will help your plants avoid demise.
- Take care of sprouts– you will need to lay a thick blanket of mulch on top of them or use a flowerpot to cover the tender sprouts. If the temperatures rise during the day, it will be okay to uncover them.
- Cover larger plants– use bubble wrap, fabric or old sheets to cover larger shrubs and trees completely from the top to the ground. You need to do a tight package since most of the heat is coming from the ground and if the fabric reaches it, it will trap it inside the bubble. When the temperature rises, again, you should uncover the sheets.
- Damage control– if frost is coming, don’t use any fertilizers to speed up plant growth – you need to avoid tender plants being exposed to cold. Container gardening and sheet wrapping are arguably your best choices – more on them later on. If parts of your shrubs and trees get damaged, branches for that matter, you can wait until they start growing. Then you can easily access how much damage they have taken and only cut out the dead parts.
Very often the reasons for plant frost are rooted in improper care – untimely fertilizing, missing out on dealing with pests or insufficient watering. Here are a couple of horticultural tricks to fend off frost:
- Feed plants timely. Avoid fertilizing and watering during the second half of the autumn and the summer seasons, so that you don’t stimulate early bud growth.
- Water properly. Another bright idea is to keep the soil around the plant, especially around orchard trees and shrubs, moisturized by watering it more often. It will hold the temperature at a lower degree and will prevent the plants from early blooming. Apart from keeping the root system cool, the water will maintain the air around the plant a touch cooler.
- Cover the soil. You can use mulch, straw or manure, to reduce erosion, air exposure and nutrient loss.
- Choose the right planting spot. Your landscape is a battle plan. You have to spread your units, being the plants, in the right places, so that they receive the optimal amount of nutrients and sunlight they need, without getting damaged by external conditions. Sunlight gets reflected by south-facing walls which means that area will be warmer, as opposed to north-looking sides. Early morning sunlight shouldn’t get to early blooming plants – the thawed snow can blacken their buds.
- Plant shrubs to break the wind. If your outdoor space is a windy place, planting hedges around will reduce the chance of your plants get damaged by air outbursts. However, by the time hedges grow big enough to protect them, you can also use netting or any other hand-made materials, placed on stable posts. In addition to new structures, check out any loose parts of fences or panels. Go for the ones that allow some wind to pass through – you will avoid any unpleasant noises, turbulence and wind gust..