Many states across the United States have been hit by unseasonably cold weather over the last week. Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas have seen temperatures plummet weeks ahead of time and as a result, lawns and gardens have been hit pretty hard. If you’ve been hit by a cold snap, or feel like you might be hit by one before you finish preparing your garden, here are some ways to deal with it.
This might not necessarily be at the top of the list as far as things that spring to mind, but ceasing irrigation can be key. Plants can survive being cold, and they can survive being wet, but being both can be hard on them, especially if they haven’t finished blooming. Not to mention, continued irrigation when the temperatures suddenly drop to the 30s can lead to icy patches or frozen equipment.
Particularly for vegetable plants, but also usable for flowers, frost jackets and cold frames can help to keep plants safe and frost-free until the end of their growth period. Not using proper frost protection can shorten harvest time, kill off vegetables, and stunt seedling development.
Move What You Can
If you have plants that have been anted in containers, move them inside at the first sign of a drastic temperature drop. Don’t put them in your house though, as that could be too warm. Instead, put them in a shed or garage that will allow them to acclimate to the temperature dropping slowly and steadily.
Collect Heat and Slowly Release It
A handy little trick, this involves painting milk jugs or other plastic container black, filling them with water, and positioning them inside your flower bed. These bottles will absorb heat during the day, warming the water. At night, when the temperature drops, these bottles will slowly release that heat, keeping the plants around them slightly warmer than they otherwise would be. Fresh black mulch can also help do the trick – it will absorb heat during the way and keep the plants and ground from becoming too cold.
Don’t Cut Back Dead Growth
It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but leaving dead plant matter on the plants can actually help them through a series of temperature drops. This is because the dead matter will be on the furthest outside of the plant, and act as insulation going forward.
Don’t Encourage New Growth
Again, a bit counter-intuitive, as your main purpose is to help your lawn and garden thrive. However, new growth is particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures, so fertilizing your lawn and plants to encourage more growth will only create young plants that will be killed off quickly. If you’ve already missed the fall fertilizing sweet spot you’re better off waiting until spring.
Understandably, one of the biggest problems with sudden cold snaps is that they are so unexpected. You might not have time to protect your lawn and garden the moment the cold hits, but even addressing the problems within a few days of the first major plummet can make a difference. So don’t worry if they temperature has hit freezing already, just make sure you get out there as soon as possible and give your plants a fighting chance to finish off their growing season.