Living in the south, we don’t have freezing temperatures very often. But occasionally, Jack Frost DOES make a visit and we need to be prepared to protect our plants and lawn. Although the first freeze warning has already come and gone in our area, there could be more to come this winter. Taking these extra steps before a freeze will help your yard fare much better when the frost arrives. Also, a year-round approach to lawn maintenance makes the transition into spring go much more smoothly.
A freeze warning occurs when the temperature threatens to drop below 32° F. To avoid damage to your yard, follow these five steps:
- Bring your potted plants inside
The easiest way to protect potted plants is to bring them indoors if possible. But if this isn’t an option, place your plants close together so they can protect one another. The plants most susceptible to damage are tropicals, azaleas, tomatoes and petunias.
Moving potted plants inside and outside regularly can cause undo stress on the plants. So you may want to consider just moving plants indoor for the duration of the cold months.
- Cover tender plants
Just like we bundle up for cold weather – plants need to also! If possible, cover the roots of your plants with mulch or pine straw. Use cloths or burlap to cover your plants to shield them from the freeze. A proper cover should reach down to the roots in order to trap in heat. Don’t use tarps or plastics that can damage the limbs and create condensation on the foliage.
At the Greenery Garden Center, we use N-Sulate frost cloths to protect our outdoor plants and shrubs. N-Sulate cloths help covered plants to stay 5 degrees warmer as well as protect against frost without weighing down branches. But keep in mind that this cloth will not help when there is a hard freeze.
Once temperatures start rising during the day, be sure to uncover your plants to avoid condensation from forming.
3. Water your plants
Wet soil helps to retain more heat than dry soil. And winter winds can remove water from plants faster than the roots can actually absorb it. Water acts as an insulator for plants. Plant cells that are hydrated will hold up better against cold damage.
Try to water a day or so before the freeze in the morning directly at the plant’s root system. Avoid getting any of the actual foliage wet. Wet leaves are more likely to form frost that can cause more damage than just the cold air.
The exception to this rule is for succulents. Because they hold water and water expands when frozen, any freezing temperatures can cause succulents to break open.
Pay extra attention to newly planted trees and plants in your yard. Their root systems are less established and the disheveled soil may allow cold air to penetrate deeper into their roots.
If the ground is already frozen, skip the watering. Also, you don’t want to water if there’s a hard freeze (at least four hours of 25°) or the outside temperature is already below 40°.
This step is quite particular. Over watering can actually cause more harm to your plants. So water with care!
4. Protect your pipes and your irrigation system
One of the MOST important things to do before a freeze is to make sure your pipes are protected. A busted pipe can be an expensive and messy problem!
Unhook your outdoor hoses and turn off the water that leads to outdoor spigots. Try to cover exposed spigots using towels. Another way to protect pipes before a freeze is by leaving a slow trickle of water running overnight.
To ensure your irrigation systems are protected from the cold winter weather, be sure to:
- Shut off the water. The main valve that controls water flow should be located by your water meter. If your system prevents backflow, you’ll also want to turn that off.
- Turn off the automatic timer.
- Drain the water. This is the most time-consuming, but important step. Some systems are equipped with an automatic drain feature. If not, you will need to drain the water manually.
If you aren’t comfortable with winterizing your irrigation system, The Greenery is here to help! Give us a call to winterize your irrigation system.
5. Avoid walking on your lawn
By the winter months, your grass becomes quite brittle. Walking on your lawn when there is a frost can actually break the blades. In spring and summer, grass blades can bounce back easily from being walked on. But damage done in the winter can affect the growth of your lawn in the springtime. So try to avoid stepping on your grass in the freezing weather.
Even though it doesn’t happen often – freezing temperatures can be costly on your yard and lawn. It’s much better to be proactive to help your yard flourish once the springtime rolls around.
For more tips about winter weather preparation and other info, follow The Greenery Garden Center on Facebook and Instagram at @GreeneryIncGardenCenter.