Cold air, snow, and frost are harmful to your plants because because they turn water to ice within the plants’ cells. These ice crystals then damage the plants’ tissues. With a little human intervention and an understanding of these five factors, we can minimize the damage cold snaps do to our garden.
Factor #1: Variety
Different plants like to be grown in different seasons, and plants often fail to thrive or produce the good parts you want to eat if they’re not being grown in their ideal temperature range.
Grow your plants during the correct season and remove them from your garden once their optimal growing conditions have passed. Plants that prefer the two warm growing seasons we enjoy here in Austin and surrounding areas will obviously be more sensitive to the cold than plants that love the cool season.
Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide
Take all the guesswork out of your seasonal planting.
Factor #2: Protection
Covering your plants with simple frost covers can greatly increase their chances of surviving a frost. I’m not talking about a frost with prolonged temperatures in the single digits like we saw in 2021, but one during which temps dip into the low 30s and even 20s.
If you haven’t invested in frost covers yet, old sheets and towels can do in a pinch. I’ve even resorted to placing empty plastic tubs upside down over my plants and holding them in place with rocks.
Read more about how to protect your plants from Texas cold snaps.
Factor #3: Weather
I alluded to this in factor #2, but the duration/severity of the freezing temps is a major factor in whether your plants will make it. Is it a quick period below freezing or several days of bitter weather? And how much below freezing does the temperature drop?
The longer the temperatures stay below 32 degrees, the longer the cold has to penetrate deep into the soil and freeze the tissues inside the plants’ roots.
Some tougher, deep-rooted plants might survive a night or two of freezing temperatures, but several days pushes it for all but the cold hardiest of plants.
Factor #4: Moisture
Water your plants well before a freeze. It might seem counterintuitive to add water before a freeze, but we do so for two reasons.
First of all, a plant that’s already stressed due to lack of water will be more susceptible to damage from cold weather. We want the cells of our plants to be nice and plump with water so they can minimize damage and have the highest chances of survival. Healthy plants are hardy plants.
Secondly, well-watered soil will lose its warmth more slowly over several hours of freezing temps than dry soil.
Factor #5: Maturity
Plants grow stronger with a little more life experience under their belts. Plants—they’re just like us! More mature plants can build tolerance to freezing temperatures and become acclimated to the cold. You can see, though, how sudden frosts could still catch mature plants by surprise and cause damage.
More mature plants also have a deeper root structure than baby plants. Those deeper roots offer not only greater support but greater protection against inclement weather, too.
Overall, the best thing you can do for your garden is to plant each herb, leafy green, rooting crop, flower, and fruit-bearing plant in its correct season.
If you’ve planted a seasonal garden and taken reasonable precautions agains the cold (like using frost cloths and watering your garden well) and your plants still die or suffer severe damage, just remember that it’s okay. As I’m sure you know, Texas weather loves to throw us for a loop!
We can take a deep breath, reset, and regrow.
If your garden needs an update or an full overhaul after a cold snap, schedule an in-person or virtual consultation, and we can get started before spring arrives! CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE.