Its spring, you’re looking at the weather forecast, and it looks like there could be frost in many surrounding areas. Whether your yard receives a frost will depend on weather conditions, your location, and even more specific, whether the area is protected by the house, overhead structures, trees, or even sidewalks and driveways. Nevertheless, do be aware that when the chance of frost is there, open flowers, tender foliage, tropical plants, annuals, etc. would be most susceptible to frost damages. And how cold it gets, how long it lasts, and temperatures previous to the frost are major factors to the amount of frost damages that may be incurred. We cannot predict how much damage, if any at all, will occur, or which plants will be okay or not. Plants amaze us every year with the hardiness, as well as susceptibility to environmental factors out of our control.
Containers: For tender plants growing in containers, move inside the garage, unheated porch, or inside the home. Even under a large overhang may help protect plants in some situations. NOTE: Tender plants include annuals, vegetables (not most cold and root crops), tropical plants, plants recently purchased from a greenhouse and not ‘hardened off’, plants with new tender foliage, etc.
In Ground: For tender plants in the ground, watering the soil during the day helps hold warmth in the ground around the plants and hydrates the plants (dried out plants are more susceptible to frost damages). Covering with grow covers, light sheets ‘tented’ over the plants, using upside down pots, cardboard boxes, glass jars, milk jugs or just about any solid structure, as well as tomato cages wrapped in protective covering, etc. will help. Do not lay plastic on plants – use plastic only if you can create a greenhouse over the plants, and the plastic does not touch the plants. Be cautious laying any material directly on plants, as rain or snow could weigh down the material and cause physical damages to the plants. ‘Tenting’ is your best bet, and make sure all coverings are secured. For larger flowering trees or shrubs, or plants taller than you, generally leave them be.
Uncovering: If the daytime temperatures (after the frost night) go into the upper 40’s, be sure to uncover the plants during the day (once into the mid 40’s) and be ready to re-cover the plants should they need protection the following night.
Can’t Cover Plants: For light frosts, where you can’t cover, or it was a surprise frost, try spraying your plants, before the sun comes up, with a soft stream of cold water. This has varying results, but worth the try with light frosts to help minimize frost damage.
Whether your yard will have frost depends on each location. Watch the weather and watch the thermometer to see if the temps dip below 40 degrees (upper 30’s can have frost). Not sure what to do? When in doubt, cover or put the plants away.