North Florida typically sees a handful of freezes over the fall and winter. Freezes shouldn’t be confused with frosts, which occur when the moisture in the air freezes if overnight temperatures drop to the mid-to-low 30s.
The National Weather Service defines a freeze as the temperature falling below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and a hard freeze as an extended period of time in which the temperature drops below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. While frosts can potentially cause damage, freezes can severely damage or even kill your outdoor plants if they’re not properly prepared.
When extreme cold is looming, there are steps you can take to protect your landscaping, as many Florida plants, including palms and citrus plants, are not conditioned for such extremely cold temperatures. To help farmers, landscapers and homeowners, the National Weather Service provides watches and warnings to areas at risk. This includes frosts, freezes and hard freezes.
When a freeze is expected, here are a few steps you should take to prepare:
Water Your Plants and Shrubbery Before a Freeze
This may sound a little off, but watering your plants during the day before a freeze can actually help to protect them. Soil with adequate moisture absorbs solar energy better and holds heat throughout the night. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, this practice can actually keep the soil 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.
Don’t oversaturate your plants and soil, however, as this can damage the root system if not properly drained. If your soil holds too much water, this can also weaken your plants and bring the roots closer to the surface, thus making them more susceptible to the cold temperatures.
Cover Your Most Delicate Landscaping
Cover any delicate landscaping, such as flowers, vegetables and citrus plants, in the evening before a freeze. This will help to insulate your plants at night when the temperature drops. Consider using old bed sheets, plastic sheets, towels or blankets as covers. The heavier the cover, the better, but avoid draping a cover over a plant that can’t support the weight. For your smaller plants, consider placing a cage around them and drape your cover over the cage. Remember to anchor your covers so they’re as “airtight” as possible.
You don’t want to remove your covers too early in the morning. Removing your cover too early can cause your plants to thaw more quickly and can cause severe damage.
Bring Your Potted Plants Inside
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to move plants that are planted firmly in the ground, but you should move potted plants inside during a freeze. Move any potted plants into your home, garage, shed or other structure. If a potted plant is too big or heavy to move inside, take the same steps you would to protect your other outdoor plants and cover it overnight.
Don’t Forget Irrigation Equipment
You should also take precautions to prepare any irrigation equipment for a freeze. Pipes and hoses holding water are at risk of bursting in extreme cold temperatures. You should make sure hoses and irrigation equipment are drained and leave your spigot dripping slowly overnight. This helps to relieve pressure in your pipes during freezing temperatures.
Freezes are not ideal for our plants, but we can’t prevent them. We can only take steps to protect our plants. If you have a question about how to handle your plants during a freeze or need help with your landscaping, contact C&A Landscape at (850) 329-0621 or contact us online.