What Freeze Levels Mean For Your Lawn And Garden This Winter

What Freeze Levels Mean For Your Lawn And Garden This Winter

If you are new to gardening and are starting to grow your own plants, you may not be aware that some plants are not suited for colder weather. If these plants are not adequately protected, they can wither or even die when exposed to freezing temperatures. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening. You can protect your plants from frost by covering them or using measures like cold frames.

Firstly, it is important to know the different levels of freezing that can affect plants. There are three levels of freeze: light, hard, and severe. A light freeze occurs when temperatures range between 28 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a hard freeze is when the temperature drops between 25 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and a severe freeze is anything below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. When plants are exposed to freezing temperatures, ice crystals can form on their surface. Although most plants can withstand these crystals, some cannot. Additionally, plant cells that are exposed to freezing temperatures can become damaged and may eventually die.

Some plants can withstand cold temperatures better than others

Man covering plants

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Some of the plants that are likely to die if exposed to cold include peppers, tomatoes, basil, and eggplant — in fact, most soft fruits will not survive harsh weather conditions. The best thing to do for your plants if they fall into this category is to bring them inside when freezing weather is expected. This should be to a heated, warm area and not a garage that’s still cold. Not all plants can be moved, but those in pots should be if possible.

If you can’t bring them indoors, there are specific frost blankets that you can use to cover your plants and protect them from the worst of the weather. A worthy investment for any keen gardener, note that the cover should not actually touch the plants. It should be suspended above — so everything is fully covered without being touched. You can use anything to prop up the covering, including chairs — if you don’t have posts. An important thing to note is that if your covering is made of plastic, it can damage the plants more — as it isn’t a good insulating material.

Reviving a frost-damaged plant is a slow process

Plants covered in frost

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If you find your plants have frozen, there are things you can do that may bring them back to life. The first thing you should do is bring the plant indoors to offer it some shelter. Gently water the plant — as frost-damaged plants will be dehydrated. It may be tempting but do not cut away any obviously dead stems or leaves from the plant until it has been inside for a few weeks. This is because the plant needs time to shake off the damage it has been dealt before beginning a regrowth phase.

Is it not possible to bring a plant inside? These next steps should only be taken once the weather has warmed a little — and you don’t think there will be any more frost. Observe the damage to the plant and remove any dead or dying areas, ensuring you don’t cut through any undamaged parts. Additionally, check the roots — the outside part of a plant may be damaged, but the parts below the soil might be fine. Next, apply a fertilizer intended for general use to the plant. All that’s left to do now is wait and see if the plant regrows. It’s always better to prevent damage with the above measures than revive a dying plant, so keep an eye on the weather forecast when winter is set to begin.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.