Why Frost is So Detrimental for Plants and How to Protect Your Garden in Winter
Frost is a bugbear for many gardeners. Every year, as winter approaches, gardeners must take extra steps to protect their precious plants from frost to ensure they stay alive in the spring and summer months.
If you’re worried about the health of your plants as winter comes around, there are helpful strategies you can use to maintain your garden throughout the cold weather. In this article, we’re going to cover why frost is so detrimental to various plant species and how you can protect your garden this winter to create a garden you can use all year around.
Why is Frost Detrimental for Plant Health?
Winter frost can be a significant problem for plants and can be stressful to deal with as a passionate gardener. Although some plants are frost-resistant, a large proportion of plant species are prone to frost damage, which can stunt growth and even cause plant death in severe cases.
Frost causes ice crystals to form inside the plant’s cells, reducing their ability to function and causing potentially irreversible damage. These ice crystals can create a high level of pressure inside the plant cells, causing them to rupture.
Ice formation inside plants can also prevent them from absorbing and transporting water and nutrients to their cells. Dehydration and a lack of nutrients can cause the plant to stop photosynthesis, stop growing, and eventually die.
How to Protect Your Plants from Frost Damage
Before you start panicking that your favorite plants are going to succumb to frost damage this winter, keep reading! There are plenty of plant frost protection strategies that you can follow to ensure your garden remains plush and full of life during the cold winter months.
Fill your garden with frost-protective plants
Choosing plants that have natural frost-resistant properties is a clear and effective way to prevent your garden from experiencing frost damage. It’s a proactive step that can save you a lot of time and worry further down the line when winter approaches.
Frost-resistant plants have developed handy defense mechanisms that protect them from the damaging effects of frost. The exact protection mechanisms depend on the species of plant and its properties. For example, some plants have developed altered plant cell structures to prevent or reduce ice crystal formation, while others release antifreeze proteins that keep frost at bay.
Apply mulch to your plants
Mulching refers to the process of adding mulch to the base of your plants where the stem meets the soil. You can purchase mulch from most plant stores, and it’s relatively affordable. Mulching can be particularly beneficial for perennial plants.
Mulch enriches the soil and helps to maintain the optimal temperature for your plants to grow and thrive. It effectively provides a protective barrier that ensures the soil is insulating for your plants during cold winter months.
Cover your plants with a frost blanket or sheet
As obvious as it might sound, covering plants with a sheet is a step that many gardeners forget to take. A frost blanket is a simple but highly effective way to keep your plants and protect them from cold winds.
A frost blanket provides an insulating layer above your plants to prevent frost build-up and prevent your plants from coming into direct contact with frost. Use a blanket overnight and remove it during the day so your plants can still access direct sunlight and complete photosynthesis.
Feed and water your plants daily
Feeding and watering your plants is essential every single day of the year in order to keep them strong and healthy, and encourage continuous growth. However, it becomes especially important during winter. Keeping your plants healthy helps them build resilience against frost and reduces the risk and impacts of frost damage.
Add fertilizer to the soil underneath your plants, remove weeds and dead plant material from your garden, and water your plants every day. Avoid growing competitive plants next to each other, and pay attention to the direction of sunlight in your garden to ensure all of your plants receive adequate sunlight during the day.
Although these are basic gardening practices that you may already know about and probably already do every day anyway, it’s important to remind yourself of these practices during cold winters when your plants are particularly vulnerable to frost damage and death.