Last night the temperature at my mom Peggy’s house was predicted to get down to the low 30’s. That means frost was a real possibility. If you saw her gardens in my post a couple of days ago (Gardening: All in the Family), you know her plants are well underway and many not able to survive a first. So what to do?
Every plant has its own tolerance to cold. Zinnias, Impatiens, Petunias? Forget it, they like it warm. Cold weather vegetables, strawberries, perennials? Maybe leaves and flowers damaged initially, but they’ll be just fine. The seed packet or container tag will give you some insight into what they can tolerate. When in doubt, cover them.
If you know that the plants are likely to be damaged by an overnight frost, you need to cover them with a sheet or blanket. My mom has a whole collections of sheets just for this purpose. By tenting the sheets over the garden, it creates a warm air pocket around the plants. If it’s thought to be colder than a light frost, you can add a a layer of plastic over the blanket to trap even more warm air (never right on the plants). Be sure to remove the coverings first thing in the morning before condensation starts to form on the inside. If still cold enough, the moisture could freeze on the plants and cause harm as well. An actual freeze requires even more elaborate weather protection, or you may just need to sigh and start over.
Then say a little prayer and hope for the best. Peggy’s plants looked good this morning. It did get down to 31°, but warmed up quickly once the sun came up. Hopefully that’s it for the cold weather.