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How to protect your garden from frost and freeze?

One of the biggest worries of gardeners is the threat of freezing weather and
frosts that can harm or kill plants and damage crops. Here’s what you need to
know to protect tender plants from freezing temperatures.

What is a freeze?

A freeze occurs when temperatures drop below the freezing point of water (32°
F or 0° C). When the water inside a plant freezes, it can cause the plant cells
to burst, resulting in irreparable damage.

Plants react differently to freezing temperatures:

Tropical and frost-tender plants: Cannot survive freezing temperatures so
they only grow naturally in warmer climates.

Annual plants: Can’t survive a freeze, but they disperse seeds to replenish
their numbers once the weather warms.

Root-hardy perennials: The foliage is killed back by a freeze, but the roots
survive in a dormant state until spring.

Fully hardy perennials, shrubs, and trees: Enter a dormant state, which
decreases vulnerability to freezing temperatures by reducing sap content and
conserving water. Spring blooms and early foliage may be damaged by late-spring
freezes, but the plants themselves usually recover.

What is frost?

Frost occurs on clear, still nights. As the air temperature approaches
freezing, the surface temperature of plants can dip below freezing, causing ice
crystals to form in the same manner that dew forms on warmer nights. Because
temperatures vary just a few feet above the ground, frost can form when your
thermometer reads above freezing. Freezing temperatures may or may not be
accompanied by frost.

Types of frost include:

Hoarfrost is the familiar feathery white frost you see on chilly mornings. It
results when water in the air is deposited directly in the form of ice

Rime happens when water is deposited in liquid form through dew or fog which
then freezes. Rime has a glazed appearance.

Black frost is a term used when frost didn’t form, but plants were
nonetheless damaged (and blackened) by freezing temperatures.

Effects of freezing temperatures on plants

For all but the most tender plants, it doesn’t matter whether the conditions
produced a frost or a freeze. What’s important is how cold it got and for how
long. When temperatures near freezing, a few degrees can make a big difference.
To advise gardeners, so they can take proper precautions, different terms are
used to describe the severity of a freeze.

The average first and last frost dates for a given area usually refer to the
occurrence of killing frosts. These are most often caused by fronts of arctic
air moving in and are more indicative of seasonal change. Research has shown
that most crops and plants can recover from brief dips below freezing, but when
the temperature reaches 28° F it begins to cause extensive cellular damage and
crop loss.

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