How to Protect Plants from Frost

Tips on how to protect plants from frost.  These DIY methods are easy and helpful to both amateur and experienced gardeners.  By using these tips, your plants will be safe from cold and frost! 

Protecting Plants From Frost

There’s always a bit of danger involved when you plant your Spring vegetables.   In the Spring or Fall we are always trying to extend our growing season and with wildly fluctuating temperatures that can be a dangerous challenge for your plants.    This is how it usually always goes:

You plant your seedlings into your garden on a beautiful day,   you’re so excited for garden season to begin!   You go back inside, still smiling, and check the weather.  WHAT! IT’S SUPPOSED TO REACH NEAR FREEZING TONIGHT? Panic sets in!

Easy DIY tips to protect your plants from frost and cold. Learn how to harden off your plants, use bottles for heat and cover your vegetables.

Don’t worry.  We’ve all been there.  No matter how planned you are, the weather is unpredictable and early on you need to live a little dangerously. 

Use Bottles for Heat

Easy DIY tips to protect your plants from frost and cold. Learn how to harden off your plants, use bottles for heat and cover your vegetables.

No, we aren’t growing almond milk! Here’s the tip we use every year for our Spring seedlings.

Fill a few bottles up with water and place them in your garden.  During the day, they will collect heat from the sun.  When it’s early evening, cover up with the plants (and bottles) with garden row cover.  We use A-clamps to hold the row cover down to our garden beds, but you could also use heavy rocks.   At night, when temperatures drop the bottles will share this warmth with your veggies!

This basically acts like a green house.  Here’s how the bottle looked when I took the row cover off the following morning.  The plants were toasty and warm! And more importantly, they were safe! 
Easy DIY tips to protect your plants from frost and cold. Learn how to harden off your plants, use bottles for heat and cover your vegetables.

The Best Cold Weather Plants

Certain plants are more or less prone to succumbing to the threats of frost.  I always shake my head when the big box garden store sets out greenhouse grown tomato plants in the beginning of April for eager novice gardeners.  One cold night and those plants will all be dead.  
 
Here are the best cold weather plants that are more resistant to frost:

  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • lettuce
  • peas
  • radishes
  • kale
  • spinach
Easy DIY tips to protect your plants from frost and cold. Learn how to harden off your plants, use bottles for heat and cover your vegetables.

Our spring lettuce, ready to be picked at the end of May!

 

Hardening Off Plants
Established plants are big and strong and can survive a frost but Spring seedlings are very tender and susceptible to even the lightest of frosts.  To survive, seedlings need to be transitioned over a period of days from their comfy climate controller spot in your house under your grow lights to your garden outdoors.  This transition period typically lasts a week. 

Here’s how we harden off our plants without a greenhouse! 

Broccoli Seedlings Hardening Off

One pretty broccoli seedling!

Start with an hour in the outdoor shade.  The next day double that  and give your plants a bit more exposure to the full sun and outdoor temperature.  Continue this incremental process and on day seven your plant should be fully transitioned and ready to survive the 8+ hours of direct sun.  
 
Not only can the cold shock your plants but the bright sun can scorch tender leaves leaving them burn crispy and potentially killing your baby plants.  

How to Harden off Plants

Our plants, hardened off and ready to be planted!

Using a Cloche for Frost

I recommend that you always have some type of frost protection on hand that is easily accessible.  Why? Imagine you think you’re in the clear but suddenly there’s a chilly night in June that’s unexpected.  You don’t want that beautiful lettuce to die! 

A quick and easy way to protect your plants is by using a cloche.  

Croches for Frost

Cloches are small personal greenhouses, helping to warm up the soil in Spring, and then shelter the plants from cold and frost. Most cloches have venting in them to prevent from overheating. These originally became popular in the Victorian era where they were used as mini-greenhouses.    

Bonus: They’re also great at protecting your plants from pests! Like that rabbit that won’t stop looking at your cabbage!

Building a Garden Tunnel With Hoops

Building row cover tunnels are a great way to protect your plants from frost.     These tunnels can be put directly on the ground or drilled into a raised bed.  We even build our own to place on top of our sub irrigated planters.  

You could make your own easily in a afternoon, or you can buy a premade tunnel with hoop for less than $30.  These tunnels help warm up the soil so you can plant your seedlings early. They are made from high quality UV poly, which should be proper protection from wind as well.

How to Build a Garden Tunnel with Hoops
 
What is my first and last frost date?

Find out frost dates for your location by typing in your zipcode here.  There are variations from year to year but these dates are historically the first and last frost dates.  Before planting check out your local weather and pay specific attention to the frost forecast to get a good idea on if you are safe or not. 

Frost Dates for Vegetable Garden

Remember all it takes is a couple of degrees colder than forecast to kill all of your young plants so it is always best to err of the side of caution.  

More Garden Tips

How to Grow Sweet Corn

How to Make Sub Irrigated Planters

How to Use a Heat Thermometer for Seed Germination

How to Presprout Peas

Tips on Making Your Garden Organic

I hope these tips help you to protect plants from frost! Happy Gardening!

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Easy DIY tips to protect your plants from frost and cold. Learn how to harden off your plants, use bottles for heat and cover your vegetables.

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