CO-Horts Blog

Friday, April 28, 2017

To Cover, or Not to Cover? (winter is back!)

Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Boulder County

For the past several weeks it's seemed that the warm weather was here to stay. But, we all have to remember that we live in Colorado and you NEVER know what Mother Nature has in store for us here. Over the next two days, much of CO is predicted to get below freezing temps overnight and many people are asking if their plants will survive. Well, as usual, it depends...

A freeze is when the temps drop low enough to cause the water in plant tissue to turn into tiny ice crystals and the next day your plants turn to mush (destroyed plant tissue). A frost is when there is a lot of water vapor in the air and temps drop low enough to freeze that vapor. The result is frost on top of plants. We can get light frosts, that don't actually freeze plant tissue. The different is based on: how low (below 32F) the temperature get, how long the low temp lasts, what species of plant you have, and where the plant is located (sheltered or out in the open).

There are some plants that will be affected by this cold-snap and there are measures you can take to help protect them:

  • Covering plants is the most common. You can use old sheets, blankets, frost cloth, burlap sacks, etc. Flower pots or large trash cans turned upside down can also be placed over plants. If you use something heavy like a blanket be sure that you have stakes or something else besides the plant to hold up the blanket. You don't want to crush the plant while you're trying to save it from the freeze! Cover the plant in the evening to try to trap some of the heat that has built up during the day, then UN-cover the plants the next morning once the sun is out. 

Grouping of pots at DBG covered for late April freeze
Nursery stock covered in preparation for the April freeze

  • Watering plants can help, but you would have needed to do that a few days ago. Moist soil retains more heat and will raise humidity levels which can help reduce frost damage.
  • Mulch can provide some protection if you have a nice layer down. You can mound it up around plants, but delicate/tender plants won't like to be covered with a thick layer of mulch. 
These precautions can help, but we all have to realize that some plants just won't take the cold well and may be set back by the low temperatures, others will make it through just fine. If you have plants that seem particularly tender, go ahead and give them some extra protection. 

I have to give a nod to Jack Frost and Mother Nature, always keeping us gardeners on our toes here in CO!! Good luck everyone, I hope your gardens come through just fine!!

1 comment:

  1. It's really nice of you to share these useful tips for winter protection of the plants. I will follow these tips to keep my plants safe from the effects of winter winds and snow.