Freeze Preparation

Protect your plants!

General Guidelines

  • Apply 3″ of mulch to cover rootzones.

  • Cover with frost cloth or row cover all the way to the ground; place bricks, rocks, etc. around the edges of the covering to keep it in place.

  • Two layers are better than one.  Double cover for extra protection of tender plants.

  • Huddle for warmth!  Group potted plants together to help them hold in heat.

  • Wind chill matters.  Plants in the path of prevailing wind may need extra protection.

  • Remember to disconnect hoses, wrap the spouts, and winterize any irrigation systems.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, watering deeply before a freeze helps plants withstand damage — the exception being succulents!  If your succulents are potted, move them indoors before a freeze.  If the pots are too large to move, or if your succulents are in the ground, cover them snugly, and hope for the best.  This is particularly important if we have rainfall prior to the freezing weather.

A well-watered plant can withstand freeze damage better than a thirsty, dry plant.  If no significant rain has recently fallen, be sure to water your landscape deeply prior to the freeze.  Ensure your rootzones are mulched.  Pay special attention to tender or young plants, and cover them if necessary.

Besides the plant itself, we must also protect the rootballs of potted specimens.  Bubble wrap can be an excellent insulator.  For pots that cannot easily be moved inside,

  1. Wrap the pots.
  2. Group the pots together.
  3. Cover the entire group.

Citrus are susceptible to freeze damage and vary in terms of cold hardiness. Cold hardiness should be viewed as the ability to handle SHORT periods of time exposed to temperatures below 32°.  Visit our Citrus page for guidelines of cold-tolerance according to variety.

Outdoor citrus should be mulched to a depth of 3″, and must be covered with heavyweight row cover (frost cloth) during mild freezes.  For further protection during harder freezes, drape the citrus with outdoor incandescent Christmas lights before thoroughly covering it.  As an extra precaution foam pipe insulation can be wrapped around the trunk to ensure that some of the grafted portion will survive.  Growth that returns from below the graft likely will not produce viable fruit.

Though many of our cool season veggies appreciate the occasional dip into freezing temperatures, veggie gardeners should keep row cover on hand to protect their crop.  Either cover the plants directly or install hoops made from PVC piping to create a framework.  The accompanying diagram explains how to calculate how much row cover is needed for your hoop structures.