We have frigid weather conditions coming in the forecast, which means we are right on target for the first hard frost of the season. We have had some cold nights below freezing, with a frosty morning, but this arctic air looks like we will be shoved right into an early winter weather pattern.
So let’s get that chore-list ready for the things you need to do before that hard frost.
We’ve been hit with light frost but not a hard freeze. Light frost is when the ground is still above freezing, but air is below. Frost will nip the tips of the plants in the early morning and tender plants usually suffer.
It feels much colder when the hard freeze moves in. The air is much colder, and the temperature drops below 25 degrees for more than four consecutive hours. This arctic blast will send perennials into their winter slumber and send annuals to the great compost pile in the sky.
The plants are in a transition right now. They are preparing their roots for the frozen dormancy coming soon. The leaves of many perennials turn yellow or black and tender plants are done for the year. Annuals like impatiens, zinnias, petunias and all the other plants that have been flowering for you all summer are probably done.
Go through the garden and cut all of the wilted and discolored annuals back to the soil surface.
Cut the tops of your perennials above the crown of the plant. Hosta looks much better trimmed close to the ground. Many times their leaves will just pull away from the ground with a swipe of a rake.
Some vegetables in the garden can make it through a hard frost. Carrots and other root crops are protected by the insulation of soil, so they can last in the ground if you keep a thick layer of mulch on top. Pile a six-inch layer of mulch on them before it freezes to keep them protected.
Other vegetables aren’t as strong against the frost. Lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, beets have big foliage and can be damaged by the wind. They can stand up to cold temperatures if you give them some extra protection from a cold frame, box or burlap to block out the wind.
Keep them frozen
Perennial ornamentals, vegetables, trees and bulbs need to go through a winter freeze before spring. It keeps their internal clock on time. So this winter freeze is just part of their lifecycle. Temps bouncing from a thaw back to freezing over and over can be a plant killer. We want the roots of these perennials to stay frozen.
Once the ground is frozen, you can keep the roots frozen by covering them. Avoid using plastic because it won’t hold any heat like fabric, newsprint or mulch. To protect some of your tender plants, cover them with old blankets, newspapers and mulch. You can protect some of your smaller plants by piling mulch around their roots and covering them with a ceramic flower pot, shielding them from the winter wind.
So keep that winter coat out! You will need it by the weekend. We will be putting the winter coats on your plants soon too!
Contact Kelly Heidbreder at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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