There is a concern not just for tonight but for the next several nights in Austin that temperatures will drop to dangerously low levels, threatening not just outdoor plants but fruit trees as well. Homeowners should be concerned for outdoor plants and should either cover or bring inside any tender vegetation. While some of the more hardy plants should fare fine (pansies, cold crop veggies), many others will not and all precautions should be taken.

Fruit trees and potted plants are affected

Fruit trees and plants that are in full bloom, where the fruit is not fully form and the bud has fully flowered, are in the most vulnerable stage in the bud to flower to fruit process. Container grown plants are particularly susceptible to frosts because their roots are also unprotected. If you are unable to move your container plants indoor or under cover remember to wrap the pot in burlap or bubble wrap.

Irrigate depending on conditions

Watering may seem counter intuitive on a freezing night, but it actually will save and protect plants and trees. As water turns to ice, it releases heat in the process. This release of heat helps to keep plants surface right near the freezing mark. Do not wash frost off plants the morning after a freeze. This raises the temperature too quickly and damages the plant’s cell tissues. Wait until the ice thaws, then assess the plant damage. Hire a certified arborist to remove large or heavy broken branches from trees.

Put a layer of mulch

Spread two to three inches of shredded bark, leaves or straw around plants and trees to help the soil maintain a warm temperature. The moisture helps heat rise from the soil on chilly nights and warms the plants. Mulching plants is a great way to protect hardy plants and help control weeds at the same time.

Covering basics

Drop old shower curtains, tarp, or unfolded newspapers over plants if an unexpected light frost catches you unprepared. Protect young sprouts in the vegetable garden by laying lightweight fleece over the top of plants before nightfall. Young leaves touching the fleece may sustain slight damage if the fabric freezes but row covers are effective against frost.  You can run a sprinkler over tender plants all night when frost is predicted.

To protect plants from frost, you must take a proactive approach to keep devastation from occurring. There are also things you can do before the threat of frost to help your plants survive, such as fertilizing them in the last spring. This provides the plants with the nutrients that they will need through winter. Contact your local lawn care professionals at Emerald Lawns Austin at (512) 990-2199, or contact us online for information.