Return of the Frost: How to Protect Your Garden—Now

October 2011

The first frost of the year is scheduled for tonight, and while I’ll be wrapped in blankets and snuggled on my couch for the evening, what about my garden? John Murgel from the Denver Botanic Gardens offers a few pointers.

First, decide if you want to keep your garden going for a few more days or not. Since tonight’s frost is supposed to be mild (with no additional frost predicted for the next week), it’s quite possible to save your plants. Here’s how:

Annuals (such as marigolds, petunias, and zucchini): Since this frost is supposed to be a one-night event, it’s probably worth trying to save these. Cover the plant with a commercial product like a floating row cover, or use an at-home remedy like a sheet, towel, or newspaper. The idea is to have a roof over the plant to prevent frost from forming on the leaves.

Perennials (such as roses and chrysanthemums): Since most of these plants are already going into dormancy, let them. It’s easy and natural. However, if your prized rose bush has a few more blossoms, and you just can’t bear to see them wilt away, throw a cover (same kind as above) over the flowers and leaves to protect them from frost formation.

Potted Plants: Bring them inside or put them under a porch or patio.

Vegetables Plants: Root vegetables, such as carrots or beets, will be fine. (These veggies actually become sweeter after a light frost.) However, if you still have warm summer crops, such as tomatoes or zucchinis, pick the fruit and let them ripen inside, or, if you really want those last few vine-ripened tomatoes, cover them and hope for the best.