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Protecting Plants From Frosts and Freezes

UPDATED November 12, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Julie Gaddy

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Autumn is a beautiful time of year when trees come alive with color. Even so, outbreaks of sub-freezing temperatures pose a hazard to outdoor plants.

Why are plants susceptible to cold temperatures? Water exists within every plant, from the root to the tip. If the temperature is 28 degrees (or lower) for several consecutive hours, the water in that plant will turn into ice. This will serve to dehydrate the plant, damaging both the interior and exterior.

Many plants are very susceptible to damage due to cold temperatures and frost. Other plants are hardier and can tolerate cold snaps. Citrus fruits are very vulnerable to freezing temperatures, as are most berries, lettuce, okra, peaches and tomatoes. Flowers including begonia, marigold, and members of the Zinnia and Impatiens families should also be protected. More tolerant vegetation includes apples, cranberries, grapes, peas, spinach, petunia, and verbena. The hardiest plants include beets, dates, turnips, pansy, primrose, and violet.

How do I protect my plants? The easiest method is to use pots which can be moved inside during cold snaps or other hazardous weather. The cheapest way to protect your outdoor flower or vegetable garden is to cover the plants with a layer of mulch. A tarp or blanket will also suffice. Covering your plants will trap the heat underneath, allowing for any vegetation to stay safely warm.

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Story Image: Frosty landscape at the top of Bald Mountain. Photograph submitted by WeatherBug user Tom Reaves of Greeneville, Tenn.

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