Does Covering Your Plants Before a Deep Freeze Really Help?
When crisp autumn air starts rolling in, take measures to protect your garden from a cold snap that's inevitably right around the corner. Don't let all your hard work from spring and summer go to waste, so start preparing your plots for Jack Frost's arrival. First, stay alert for freeze warnings in your neck of the woods. Determine frost dates in your area by consulting your local Cooperative Extension Service or consult online resources like The Old Farmer's Almanac frost calendar. Head's up—the 2022 edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac is calling for a winter so cold, it's being dubbed "the season of shivers." As you're bundling up in your winter coat, don't forget to do the same for your plants.
Freezing temperatures are harmful to plants because when ice builds in their cells, it kills the tissue and damages them (sad, droopy brown leaves can be a warning sign). Tropical houseplants and tender summer annuals can't handle a deep freeze. If they're potted in containers, bring them indoors; otherwise, pull them up for the season. Summer-loving vegetables—like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers—can't withstand cold nights either, so collect your final harvest and pull them up too. Cool-weather veggies like broccoli, lettuces, collards, turnips, and Brussels sprouts can stay planted in their patch.
WATCH: "Season of Shivers": Old Farmer's Almanac Predicting Especially Long, Cold Winter
For the best chance at success for keeping your garden alive through the winter, choose hardy native plants that are used to your area's climate. When the weather forecaster warns of an overnight freeze, cover your plants with burlap, an old sheet or blanket, or clear plastic. Covering plants helps protect them from a freeze because it helps retain heat radiating from the soil and keeps them warm overnight. First thing in the morning, remove the covers to prevent condensation from developing on the leaves.
To really ensure your plants stay toasty, cover the ground around their roots with a good layer of leaves, straw, or mulch, which will also help lock in heat.