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17979 State Route 536
Mt. Vernon, WA 98273
Fax 360-873-8264

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Frost Protection & Recovery

By Carol Yaw


  1. Mulch! If you haven't already mulched around your plants, weather permitting, do it as soon as possible. Organic mulch protects and insulates your plants from winter extremes; slowly and consistently feeds your plants as rain drains through down to plant roots; and controls long-term weeds more effectively and safely than herbicides.
  1. Gather the frost protection materials you need in advance. Depending on your beds and plants, you might want to have on hand garden umbrellas, a cold frame, crop cover material, poly covers, burlap, extra mulch or compost, and for sure an antitranspirant like Wilt-Pruf.
  1. In most areas, even a lightweight covering helps protect plants because freezing air flows over the covering and unfrozen soil below buffers the cold. If you already have spread mulch, shredded bark, etc. around your plants, you can heap the mulch closer to the main stem for added insulation. (Remove the added mulch from around the crown after frost is over.)
  1. Frost can damage plants by internal ice crystal formation (wet damage) or desiccation (dry damage.)
  1. Covering or wrapping outdoor weather sensitive plants is the best protection for internal ice crystal formation or "wet damage." Remove covering after frost is over.
  1. Desiccation happens when frozen roots and stems aren't able to supply branch tips with water. When a frozen plant is exposed to sun or wind, its tips dry out, it wilts and dies.

    To avoid dry damage, spray liberally with Wilt-Pruf just before a frost. This will slow the rate at which a plant loses water, preventing excessive drying and wilting. (Also great for extending Christmas tree life.) For added protection, cover with floating row cover, burlap, plastic or even bed sheets.
  1. Frost Recovery - Leave those mushy, brown or gray leaves on until all freezing weather is past. They will provide extra frost protection to still living stems and roots.
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