Homeowners and gardeners who live in the northernmost region of the world have to worry about themselves during the cold climate as well as their beloved plants, trees, and shrubs. The polar freeze can bring down the temperatures low enough to cause devastating damage to your plants if you are not prepared enough. If you are worried, you can search “tree service near me” online to find professionals who can help you prepare for the colder months.
Otherwise, you have to learn and apply the strategies that you can use to protect your precious garden from the deep freeze.
How cold is too cold and the effects of frost on your plants
Every plant species has a different level of cold tolerance that is determined by its genetics. That’s if you have multiple plant species in your garden, you will notice that a few of them might die during a certain low temperature while others survive.
The major factor that determines the effect of low temperature on a plant species is its ability to prevent intracellular water freezing or the freezing of water inside its cells (bound water). In fact, the plant is likely to recover even if the intercellular water (the water around the living cells inside plant tissues) freezes or the soil around the root of the plants gets frozen.
Now, some plants have a mechanism that acts like antifreeze and prevents intra-cellular dehydration or the freezing of water in the cells. Other plants are susceptible to the following problems:
- Desiccation injury (A.K.A. winter burn)– Desiccation injury or winter burn is more common in evergreen trees and shrubs during the winter when their roots freeze and cannot absorb enough water to keep up with the moisture loss. This can become fatal if the trees are unable to photosynthesize before it becomes too late to cause permanent damage.
- Soil heaving – When the soil alternates between freezing and thawing temperatures, it results in soil heaving. Soil heaving pushes shallow perennial plant roots above the ground surface and exposes them to dry and cold winds that cause damage.
- Frost cracks – Thin-barked trees are susceptible to frost cracks which occur when the temperature difference between the super cold air and the sun-warmed bark becomes intense.
Factors that determine plant survival rate during frost
Here are a few factors that determine whether your plants would survive the frost:
- Soil properties – The type of soil can affect your plant survival due to a number of reasons. For instance, deep, heavy, loose, and fertile soil release more moisture into the air whereas thin, sandy soil with poor nutrients prevents the release of moisture. Heavily mulched soil also offers less protection during colder months since it also prevents the release of moisture into the atmosphere.
- Humidity – The higher the dew point the slower the rate of change in temperature and it is affected by higher humidity. Thus, higher humidity will prevent the likelihood of frost forming on your plants.
- Cloud coverage – If there are more clouds in the sky you can expect it to absorb more heat and reflect it back down to earth. This means a better chance of survival for your plants.
- Age of the plant – Younger plants are more vulnerable compared to matured plants since they are actively growing or during the flowering phase.
- Wind – Your plants are more vulnerable to the cold when there is less wind to allow the warm air to mix with the falling cold air.
- Proximity of structures and other plants – If there are other nearby plants or structures, they can radiate back heat to your plants and provide shelter against the cold winds.
How to protect your plants from polar freeze and frost
Here are a few strategies you can follow to protect your plants against the cold winds:
- Use a cloche – A garden cloche can provide ample heat and act as a well-rounded cover against the chilly winds. All you need to do is cut off the bottom of a gallon-size milk jug and put it over your plants. Just make sure to push the bottom of it about an inch deep in the soil. Also, make sure to remove the lid during the day to provide proper ventilation and close it during the day/
- Transfer container plants indoors – It is best to transfer delicate and small potted plants indoors, preferable in a location that is heated but not mandatory. A garden shed or an unheated garage will do just fine when the temperature dips down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use blankets – Another great way to protect your plants from cold winds is to drape them with blankets, old bedspreads, and large towels with the help of stakes. The small dome of protection should be sufficient to insulate it but be sure to remove the coverings by mid-day to prevent them from overheating the plants.
- Add mulch – Adding a thick layer of mulch such as compost or shredded bark and can also help to insulate your plants against the winter winds. Simply cover the plants with enough mulch when you suspect a night of low temperature and remove them when the weather warms up. It is not the most feasible option for people short on time since it is labor-intensive and messy, but it can work during an emergency when you have no other option. Plus, this tactic works best for sturdy plants.
Hopefully, this article has allowed you to muster enough confidence to follow the strategies mentioned to protect your plants from the polar freeze. However, if you don’t want to go through the hassle that comes along with the preparation, you can hand the job to the professionals. All you need to do is search “tree service near me” on Google and you can easily find a list of experts in your neighborhood that can help you make your garden winterproof.