How to protect plants from hard freeze

CLEVELAND - With all of the warm temperatures we've had across Northern Ohio last week, it's no wonder that many trees and shrubs are in full bloom. But with temperatures expected to drop well into the 20s Monday night, some of the tender shoots, flower buds and vegetation are in jeopardy of freezing. AKA: This would effectively kill the flowers and seriously injure the growth that has already begun. 

It's true, unexpected freezes can harm landscapes and gardens. So, here are a few suggestions to help keep the frost damage to a minimum.

- If you have plants in pots, bring them indoors for the night. A warm garage or foyer will protect them from any frost damage.

- For plants in the ground, try an old sheet or blanket placed gently over them. This will help keep warm air from the ground around the plant, therefore preventing a lot of frost damage. Monday night, your plants would benefit from a sheet of plastic over the sheet or a blanket to add insulation. For a hard freeze, add a couple of buckets or milk jugs full of warm water under the cloth near the plants. This will provide extra heat under the covers. Remember, never put plastic directly on the plant growth. It will allow the frost to damage the plant where the plastic is touching it. It's best to always have a cloth barrier in between the plants and the plastic. Plastic or ceramic pots work very well to help protect plants from frost, just as long as the leaves or shoots are not touching the inside of the pot. Even plastic buckets will provide the necessary insulation your plants need to stay alive. Cardboard boxes also work, as long as you have something heavy on top of them to keep them from falling over or blowing away.

- Plants beginning growth also benefit from mulching up around the roots and shoots. This will also provide insulation to the roots and shoots near the ground.

- For larger shrubs, you can create an insulation barrier using burlap. Wrap the plant in burlap or, use a few stakes around the plant. Make sure the stakes are as tall as the shrub you are trying to protect. Create a burlap fence around the plant by wrapping the burlap around the stakes. Next, grab some leaves from your fall leaf pile and stuff the inside of the burlap fence with leaves. You can also add a bucket or milk jug full of water under the leaves for that extra warmth.

- If you still have Christmas lights wrapped around the trees and shrubs, turn them on for a little extra heat as well.

- A fresh watering around the plants Monday night will add some extra heat to the ground for protection. If all else fails, get up out of bed just before sunrise and turn on the sprinklers. If you wash the frost off the plants before sunlight hits the leaves, you can prevent some damage.

GOOD LUCK!

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