Preparing for the First Frost


frostAs November approaches, it’s time to start thinking about preparing our gardens for the first frost. In the Piedmont region of North Carolina, the average first frost date is November 1. If you’re new to gardening, or new to gardening in this area, the following list should help you succeed in protecting your plants this winter.

Containers The frost tolerance of outdoor containers is variable with type. As water inside the container freezes, it expands, potentially causing the container to break. Even containers labeled as frost resistant will last longer if protected from the cold. Bring your containers to a protected space, such as an unheated garage or carport. If your containers are planted with trees, shrubs, or perennials, they will need a cold period to go dormant and thrive next year, but will be protected from precipitation and cold winds. If you have a glass bird bath, or other glass garden ornaments in your yard, these should be brought into the garage or carport as well.

Houseplants Any houseplants that were left out for the summer should now be in the process of transitioning back indoors. About two weeks before the first frost, begin by bringing your houseplants inside during nighttime, returning them back outside during the day. Let your plants remain longer indoors each day over the next two weeks. This acclimatizes your plant to the new temperature and light conditions of your home. After two weeks, it may remain indoors.

You may want to wash your plants or treat them with neem to avoid bringing any pests indoors.

Annuals Take cuttings of any annual plants you want to overwinter indoors and propagate for spring. Geraniums, basil, and coleus are all easy to root in potting soil. Getting a head start with these plants the year before will give you bigger plants faster next year.

Vegetables Pick any remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans before the first frost. Pumpkins and winter squash should be harvested as well. Cool season crops like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts can tolerate some frost. In North Carolina, greens can often last most of the winter outdoors, but on especially cold nights, they will benefit from being covered with a frost blanket. These are available to buy at most garden centers.