The first frosts of fall and winter are just a warning of the cold weather that could lie ahead. Florida?s weather can change rapidly so gardeners have to be prepared to protect their sensitive plants from a sudden freeze.
Many plants kept in containers on the porch and patio can be moved to a warm garage or other indoor location. Moving the plants to a warmer spot anytime before freezing temperatures arrive is usually adequate. But a few plants including orchids, weeping figs, desert rose, frangipani and similar tropicals should be protected before temperatures drop below 40 degrees.
Most cold protection for in ground plantings involves entrapping heat in the air or from the soil to protect them from freezing temperatures. Many gardeners use plastic covers to encase trees, shrubs and flower beds. Regretfully these coverings alone do very little to hold in the heat and keep out the cold.
To really be effect coverings have to insulate the plants. Here are a few techniques that work in Florida landscapes to hold in the heat and keep out the cold
- Cover plants with large flower pots, trash cans or cardboard boxes; use newspaper as insulation inside.
- Wrap plants in blankets, burlap or other fabrics that extend to the ground.
- Cover flower beds with light blankets or sheets and then add a plastic cover.
- Mound hay, pine needles or leaves over flower, vegetable and herb plantings.
- Use stakes to support a plastic enclosure over and around the plants; add outdoor lights if needed for warmth.
Gardeners also hear a lot about using water for cold protection. Regretfully this technique is seldom effective in home landscapes. Water has to be applied uniformly and in sufficient quantities for continuous coverage during the entire cold period to be effective.