6 Tips for Keeping Your Plants from Freezing

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    Kansas City weather can certainly run the gamut.

    While February’s average temperature is 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and March’s average temperature is 44 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures can be variable – as can precipitation.

    The area is known for its strong wind gusts, “big sky,” and dramatic sunsets.

    But this variation can also mean the transition from winter to spring can be pretty wild for your landscape plants. Polarizing weather is significantly worse on plant material than if it stayed consistently cold. This can make Kansas City weather extremes a very difficult environment for many plants.

    What can you do when weather is anything but typical and unexpected freezes can ruin your impending blooms?

    Let’s talk about how to protect plants from frost so you can better prepare and protect your plants from freeze or wind damage and other harsh conditions this transition season can bring.

    Understanding Freezing Temperatures in Kansas City  

    When weather begins warming as spring nears, it can be hard to keep fluctuating between a lighter jacket and a heavier one, gloves and hat or none of the above, turning down your heat and then turning it back up or opening your windows and then closing them again.

    Your plants might feel the same way. Different plants can experience freezing conditions at different temperatures. That’s why each type of plant has a hardiness rating, dictating to what temperatures the plant is cold-hardy.

    Plants also suffer different types of impacts from freezing temperatures. Some plants can lose foliage or lose flowers if the buds were opening before the freeze, while others may be just fine. As such, light freezes versus heavy freezes will require different ways to protect your plants from freezing.

    And damage may not always be visible right away. For instance, your evergreens can be most susceptible to damage from polarizing weather such as warm days followed by cold days. Unfortunately, winter damage on most evergreens isn’t often visible at the time the damage is occurring. In fact, it often doesn’t show up until spring when everything defrosts. That’s why many evergreens that had winter damage turn brown in March or April. This is a common misconception that the damage is visible immediately. It often isn’t.

    What is Frost?  

    How to protect your plants from frost starts by understanding the very nature of frost.

    By definition, frost is the accumulation of a thin layer of ice that forms when water vapor is exposed to temperatures below the freezing point. Frost injury in plants can happen when plant cell water turns to ice, impeding movement of fluids in the plant tissues. While temperature is a major factor for frost, moisture in the air is what accelerates frost. This can happen during foggy conditions or when dew has formed.

    A light frost might be what happens when temperatures are just below freezing – from between 28 degrees Fahrenheit and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A hard frost can happen when temperatures dip below that 28-degree Fahrenheit mark.

    Minimal freezing damage can often be pruned out or outgrown, while extreme frost damage can cause the death of the plant. Freezing can also damage flower buds, which may prevent your plant from blooming or fruiting for the season.

    garden landscape maintenance in Kansas City

    How to Protect Your Plants From Frost  

    Tender plants may certainly have a hard time experiencing a surge in warmth followed by a sudden dip in temperature.

    Understanding when you need to act to protect your plants can help. Try these tips to protect plants from freezing.

    1. Use Anti-Desiccants  

    Freezing damage can cause the plant cells to “explode” when the moisture in the cell expands as a result of the freeze. This means that damage from freezing can only be removed or outgrown. The cells themselves can’t regenerate after the damage is done.

    Onen way to help avoid freeze damage is by applying anti-desiccants. An anti-desiccant is a surface spray that helps protect evergreen foliage from excessive winter drying. The spray acts as a protective barrier between the leaves or needles and the cold weather, helping to prevent unwanted moisture loss and freeze damage.

    2. Cover Your Plants  

    When expecting a light frost, you may be able to help protect your plants from freezing by simply covering them with a frost blanket.

    Covering tender plants during a hard freeze can work in small areas of your landscape, but typically isn’t effective for entire hedges or large landscape areas.

    When you cover plants, you never want to use plastic, which can insulate the plant and cause damage. Instead, use cotton or fabric blankets made for frost that can be found at most garden centers.

    If you’re trying to protect your seasonal color in containers or pots, just keeping the frost off of the leaves is sometimes enough to protect them. You can cover pots with inverted pots, cheap umbrellas, frost blankets cut to size to do this.

    3. Manage Your Fertilization Schedule With Freezing in Mind  

    Managing your fertilization schedule by considering this winter-spring transition can also help protect plants from freezing.

    New plant growth hasn’t really “hardened” and can’t tolerate the cold. But you can prevent tender, new growth from happening late in the year by only fertilizing evergreens in spring, summer, and early fall.

    4. Water Strategically   

    How you water can also protect plants from freezing.

    You don’t want to water when it’s below freezing and you want to water early in the day on warm winter days to allow the plants time to take in the water.

    Also, never water late in the day during winter since temperatures begin to drop again at night and it won’t give your plants time to soak in the water.

    5. Apply Mulch  

    Every year, you can apply mulch to your plant root zones to insulate the roots and keep the soil temperatures more moderate.

    This can not only help prevent weeds and add organic matter to your soil, but it also helps protect your plants from freezing.

    6. Hire a Professional to Help Protect Plants From Freezing  

    Paying attention to freezing temperatures and constant weather changes can certainly be time consuming.

    It might sound like too much for you during this winter to spring transition.

    Instead of getting bogged down with the temperature fluctuations and freeze potentials, you can hire a professional landscape maintenance service provider to help cover your plants in cold weather.

    To find a good Kansas City landscape maintenance partner for you, remember to keep these tips in mind:

    • Check out nearby well-maintained landscapes and find out which companies do their maintenance.

    • Review each prospective company’s work portfolio to see what type of work they do and the quality of service they offer.

    • Read the company reviews and testimonials on their website, but also at third-party sites like Google.

    • Ask a lot of questions, such as how they communicate with customers, what makes them different from other companies, how they train and retain their staff, and what extent of services they offer.

    • Make sure their customer and employee retention is strong. This is a sign people are happy to work there and customers are happy with their service quality.

    • Make sure the company you hire specializes in high-end residential work to ensure you are getting the premium look you want.

    • Consider the company’s communication strategy so you know if you have questions or issues, you’ll get a quick response.

    Let High Prairie Landscape Group Help You Protect Your Plants From Freezing  

    If dealing with the threat of frost is a recurring theme in your Kansas City garden, the work to repeatedly cover your plants for frost can be time-consuming.

    You want to protect your plants. You want to ensure you have bountiful spring blooms. You just want a great landscape that can handle the varying temperatures your landscape encounters.

    If this changing seasonal period sounds like a tough time for you to focus on landscape maintenance, let High Prairie Landscape Group help.

    We value your landscape just as much as you do and are willing to invest in maximizing its beauty and your ultimate enjoyment in your outdoor space.

    We offer a customized approach to our landscape maintenance services and would love to answer your questions, discuss your goals, and help you figure out your needs – for winter, spring, summer, and fall.

    In the end, we want you to have the best looking landscape on the block, and we don’t want winter and spring temperatures to hold your landscape back.

    Ready to see how High Prairie can transform your Kansas City home landscape with landscape maintenance services? We’d love to share our horticulture expertise with you. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can prepare a maintenance plan that is unique to you and gives you a landscape your neighbors will envy.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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