Fall’s cool down is both a letdown and a delight. After a sweltering summer, those cooler temperatures are refreshing, but it also signals the demise of our heat loving plants. You can extend the season by developing ways to keep plants warm at night. You don’t have to spend a fortune to keep plants warm at night. Common household items will often do the trick.
Plants like tomatoes and peppers do not like cold temperatures and will signal their distaste for cool weather by dying back. If you still have fruit that needs to ripen, consider ways to protect plants from cold. How do I protect my plants from the cold, you may ask? Some simple cultivation actions will assist, as well as easy plant covers during the night.
How Do I Protect My Plants from the Cold?
As fall shoulders in, it is important to keep plants warm outside, especially those that are not frost hardy or cold tolerant. Our fruit and vegetable crops are classic examples of those that will need extra steps to keep them alive and producing. Annuals and perennials that die back will also sustain growth longer if a little extra care can be taken.
1. Stop Fertilizing. Do not fertilize any plants past the end of July to the first of August, depending on where you live in the north. In the south, stop fertilizing by November. This will prevent new growth and allow older growth to harden off and endure cool temperatures better than fresh shoots and leaves.
2. Check Your Zone. Always make sure any plant you want to keep over the winter is hardy to your zone. Selecting fruits and vegetables with high resistance to frost can also overcome the plant’s natural desire to hibernate or die off for a longer period.
3. Cover Your Plants. You don’t have to spend a lot to keep plants warm outside. Old sheets and blankets work perfectly well. Drape them over sensitive plants in the early evening before the real cold sets in. Remove them each day as temperatures warm up. In some cases, it may be necessary to build a structure around the plant to prevent the covering from damaging stems. You can purchase trellises, cages, and other items, but some old wood or bamboo stems will afford adequate structure to easy the weight. In fact, if you look around the home and garden, temporary and easy ways to keep plants warm are at your fingertips.
4. Mulch. Mulching around plant root zones is a more permanent way to keep soil warm and prevent root damage.
5. Bring Plants Inside. Some plants will need to be brought indoors if freezing is expected to occur. In spring, when planting, consider which plants these will be and plant them in containers. Using casters under pots will speed up and ease the moving process. Bring plants back outdoors when things warm up. It is often time to lift tender bulbs in fall as well. Consult plant tags so you know which ones. Lift bulbs, dry them in a cool, dry area, and then store in paper or mesh bags lined with sphagnum moss. Remember to label bulbs so you know which ones are which. Just a few little tricks will extend your harvests and your sensitive plants for a little longer to enjoy.