Freeze Warning: Time to Cover!

Without frost cloth I’d be pruning these cast iron plants (Aspidistra) to the ground after almost every Collin County winter.

This cold spell that is hurtling toward us is the real deal and true gardeners aren’t taking it lightly.

It’s time to cover vulnerable plants!

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Cover winter annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, ornamental cabbage and kale, pinks and many more.
Cover shrubs listed as “hardy” to one USDA Zone south of you. That would be one Zone number greater than where you live. For example, I live in Zone 7. Any Zone 8 plant that I’m growing must be covered Thursday night and on into the weekend.

Rolls of lightweight frost cloth are moving out of stores at a fast clip this week.

Lightweight frost cloth from the nursery, hardware store or feed store is your very best option. It’s white and it’s porous. It allows water and air flow through it, but it traps warmth from the soil while it’s also blocking the cold north wind.

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Frost cloth is pulled over the tops of the plants and secured against the soil. I’ve left it in place for as long as 2-1/2 months. Click image for larger view.

Cover your plants and secure the frost cloth to the ground with bricks or river rock. Be sure it’s well anchored so the wind can’t lift it and blow it away.

We’re pulling the frost cloth back off the cast iron plants after 10 weeks of covering, including the great winter of 2021. Note that there is hardly any freeze damage done. Plants elsewhere in town that were left uncovered froze to the ground and took all year to regrow. Click image for larger view.

You can leave frost cloth in place as long as it’s needed. I have left several large plantings covered for as long as 10 weeks without any damage whatsoever.
Burlap and old bed sheets are distant second choices. Polyethylene plastic is not good. It tends to heat up too quickly on cold, sunny mornings. That can cause more damage than the cold alone would ever have done.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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