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7 Materials You Could Use to Save Plants from Frost

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Cold temperatures have arrived and left you worried about the protection of your plants in the garden. Plants indeed can be ruined when the temperature dips so low that the moisture on the plants turns into ice.

The influence of freezing temperatures depends upon the plant type, age, health, and water content. Too much decrease in temperature leads to dormancy in hardy plants or death of young or tender plants. 

Plants are most vulnerable to frost in early spring when they are in the preliminary stages of growth.

There are many ways to protect them from frost, for instance, bringing pots inside, or wrapping the branches. However, the most convenient way to protect your plants from frost is to spread a covering on them. Here, you will find a guide about which materials you could use to save your plants from frost damage.

1. Frost Cloth

Frost cloth is a great option to save your plants from severe temperatures. Frost cloths tend to store the heat beneath the covers and help plants grow despite temperatures that are lower than ideal for them.

But what would happen if frost cloth is left on for a prolonged period?

Well, you could leave it on the plants without worrying about the plants getting harmed, because it allows heat, light, and rain within the cover while maintaining the temperature for plants. This is especially helpful in getting a jump on a cooler than normal spring growing season. 

One important thing to keep in mind is that you will need to remove the frost covers for insect-driven pollination to occur.

Frost cloth must be your priority when you must protect plants from frost.

2. Row Cover

Floating row cover in an organic farm at sunset

Row cover is also known as a floating cover, which is used to protect plants planted in rows or close together, from the cold weather. It usually comes in quite big pieces, which you could cut with sharp scissors to cover a smaller piece of garden.

Row covers usually help to increase the temperature beneath the cover to help plants grow. If you want to reuse row covers, make sure to fold them carefully and store them in a safe place. Row cover includes the following options:

  • All-purpose Garden Fabric

All-purpose garden fabric is one of the fabrics gardeners use to protect their plants. It allows 80% of sunlight to reach the plants. Young plants could grow without any danger because it keeps the slugs and other bugs away from them. It also does not block rain, so that plants could get their part of the rain.

  • Garden Quilt

Garden quilt is also used to keep plants protected from frost. It allows 70% of heat and light to reach plants and helps them grow. Garden quilts are spread over the plants and made stable with soil staples. Garden quilts are lightweight and let the rainwater, moisture, and air get in without affecting plant growth.

They can also be used to keep bugs, insects, and birds away from plants. When you spread the garden quilt on the plants, make sure that you secure them properly if the weather is severe. However, they might also help if you just drape it over the tops of taller plants. If you are not using the fabric, you can store it for later use.

3. Drop Cloth

Sometimes a sudden change in weather could be concerning because not everyone has frost cloth to cover plants. However, there are other options that one could employ in such a condition. Drop cloth, for instance, is also a good option if you do not have a frost cloth to save your plants from a sudden late frost.

If you must use a drop cloth, make sure to remove it in the daytime if the temperature rises a bit.

A clever way to spread a drop cloth is over a structure that sits above the plants so that the daytime heat is trapped under the covering for the night. If the fabric touches the plant tissue and then freezes, the tissue in contact with the drop cloth can still sustain damage. Make sure to keep contact with the plant to a minimum in temperatures below 32°F.

4. Cloth Tarps

You could think about using a cloth tarp if you are do not have a proper frost cloth. Cloth tarps make fine frost protection for inground plants. For instance, potatoes, onions, turnips, etc.

Just be sure to support the cloth’s weight so that your plants do not get crushed under it.

5. Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes or newspapers could also be used to cover plants. It will be impossible to use cardboard to cover the whole garden, so you should use this option only when you must cover a small number of plants or pots. Boxes can prevent moisture from converting into ice, however, they do not allow sunlight to approach plants.

So, avoid leaving them on plants for a long time. Make sure that the cardboard is big enough to leave a one-inch space between the material and plant. If the weather is windy, do not forget to weigh them so that they stay on the plants and not leave plants exposed to frost.

6. Old Sheets or Blankets

Covered raised beds with vegetables growing

Using old sheets as a plant covering could be an effective way to recycle sheets and protect plants at the same time. They could help you protect plants from frost without suffocating. One could use bamboo sticks to maintain the material on the plants.

Uncover the plants in the morning if the temperature has risen. Try not to leave sheets on for longer than necessary. Draping plants with blankets or sheets may be the last option you consider, however. For instance, if it rains and the cover gets wet, it could become heavier and crush the plants.

However, if you put stakes under the cover, you could solve this issue as well. You are also allowed to use more than one cover if it is freezing cold. Just to compare, cardboard works better as compared to old blankets or sheets.

7. Towels

Towels could also be used to save plants from frost. They can trap heat and could keep warmth under them overnight. However, it should not be your permanent solution. Use towels only if you have no other options left.

Fabrics You Should not Use for Frost Protection

Here are some materials that you should avoid covering plants with.

1. Summer Weight Fabric

Summer weight fabric is designed specially for use in summer. It is used to protect plants from extreme heat in the scorching summer sun. It is also used to keep birds away from plants.  Gardeners also use it at the time of spray treatments which may not be good for some plants.

Using summer weight fabric to protect plants from frost is a bad idea. It does not let the heat remain under the cover, so avoid using it even for a brief period of time.

2. Plastic

Seedlings in the ground are covered with large plastic bottles

Using plastic to protect plants is never a good option. Instead of protecting them, it will harm them.  According to horticultural experts, using plastic could cause your plants to die.

Plastic does not let the air approach plants which produces moisture under the cover which harms the plants. You might wake up to dead plants regardless.

If the weather becomes more intensely cold, there might be a greater production of moisture underneath which is a great threat to plants.

3. Landscape Fabric

Landscape fabric is a black-colored fabric that gardeners use to prevent weed growth under mulched beds. If you have to leave a piece of ground for some time, you could use landscape fabric to avoid the growth of weeds and grasses. So, if you use it to protect plants from the frost, you could end up having a dead garden as well because air, water, and sunlight are restricted.

4. Shade Cloth

Shade cloth, also known as shade fabric, is a knitted or woven UV stabilized polyethylene fabric that is used to keep the temperature lower in the shade it casts. So, it would be a bad idea to use it as protection from the frost as it naturally lowers temperatures.

5. Garbage Bags

Any type of plastic placed on plants should be avoided to save plants from frost. The garbage bags will conduct cold for the plants, which can still cause the death of plants. It is also a major source of producing moisture, which will harm your plants under the plastic.

Plant covered with garbage bag to protect from frost in the backyard

Sometimes Covers Might Not Be Enough

There are times when only covering the plants with frost cloth is not enough. When the temperature falls below the freezing temperature, then you will have to make extra arrangements to keep the warmth maintained under the covers.

Using old lights could come to the rescue in such cases. Remember to use old-fashioned bulbs instead of LED lights because they do not emit heat so that won’t be of help. If these kinds of lights are not available, you have the option of droplights with 75-watt bulbs. Try to put these lights at a safe distance, because they might cause burning on the branches and leaves.

Bottom Line

Frost is most prevalent in early spring and late fall growing seasons. It is wise to keep abreast of the weather if you are caring for a garden. It allows you to be prepared for severe weather. One could use all the materials mentioned above, however, using the specially designed fabrics to ensure the security of their garden would be better.

DIY fabrics could also help you at the unexpected occurrence of frost, but it is recommended to use frost cloths if you have a garden on a larger scale.


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