A Spring Freeze Hits, Are We Happy?


Are the plants happy?

It always happens after you think the weather is so warm you see yourself around the pool sipping a refreshing iced tea. The harsh reality of the season is when it comes out of nowhere that it catches you off guard. A SPRING FREEZE!

Just a quick post to help those before they are surprised and give you a tip you may not know.


I make sure that all my tender potted plants are brought inside the unheated garage, and I WATER because cold spells often do the most damage to plant tissue through drawing out the water in delicate tissues. Did you know this?

It’s very important to water before the freeze and to aid in heating up the soil. Wet soil holds heat longer.

Check water needs of plants after the freeze too. Ice formation inside plant tissue draws water out and dehydrates the cells, so some plants may look a bit wilted. You may automatically attribute this to the freeze and see the plant as a loss, not realizing a good watering may perk your plants right up.


Apply water to plants early in the day so the foliage can dry off.  If they appear to be dried out before the cold spell hits, water is the best line of defense. Although a freeze will decimate the tender annuals, it can harm perennials newly budding. Water will help all your plants.

Then use a light “blanket” covering to protect the tender plants from ice particle formation and wind. Any wind during a freeze only adds to the desiccation. You do not need to run out and buy frost protection fabric like used on farms. Although it is relatively inexpensive and very convenient, an old sheet will do. Some use old inverted milk cartons (top removed), but I think having to store them would be an inconvenience. Fabric folds and stores easily, especially thermal blankets like used commercially. They are better because they dry quickly and don’t hold water like a bed sheet might. If rain is predicted, then frost, best to have the right materials.


Complaining does absolutely no good. If you have a young plant in your garden that wasn’t acclimated before a cold spell hits, you may have to just chalk it up to loss and welcome in a new one.

One good thing about a cold snap, they do wonders to knock down the insect populations and a few slugs may perish. Bad for nesting hungry birds, but good for garden plants.


My plants all survived being covered and well hydrated. They are shown in this post after the freeze getting a good drink to face the cool sunny day.


Next post, as promised – Wild About Allium- Step Aside Tulips, and following – Taking Care of the Soil. After that, Divide Me Please. GWGT is always filled with garden tips as of late… just stay tuned. The next six or more posts give you some designer tips and ideas. Each day see something new!

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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24 Responses to A Spring Freeze Hits, Are We Happy?

  1. Garden tips are always appreciated, I am always surprised that there are bits of really useful info that I just haven’t come across…The pictures are such a treat.

  2. Nurse Kelly says:

    As always, gorgeous photos and helpful tips. Thank you 🙂

  3. Mike says:

    Terrific photos!

  4. Hi Donna,
    I’ve seen where direct light from the sun was also a contributor during a light frost event (not a heavy freeze as you had experienced). That is, in a bed where petunias were planted, those that were in the shade were not harmed while those that received the first direct sunlight were blasted. I had thought that was a prism like effect, like a magnifying glass, where the sun rays intensify the light and scorch it.

    Yesterday when the frost arrived, annuals on the west side of the house were not touched because they were in the shadow. Also some house plants that were under a large eave of the roof on the east side (direct sunlight) were also untouched because they did not have dew on them. All over the neighborhood, the roofs and grass showed the white frost and the outdoor thermometer showed 31 degrees. I believe that the temperature for a heavy freeze might be somewhere around 27 degrees.

    • Bark on certain trees may split on the southwest side due to rapid temperature changes and sun hitting one side of a tree. I am not sure the same happens to petunias though. It may be the ones in the shade were protected like having them blanketed where moisture did not fall on them to freeze. Thanks for your comment, Tom.

  5. Great advice Donna…we do just have to chalk it up sometimes and learn from our weather patterns…we geared up here and I did not plant out tender warm weather veggies or flowers yet….I am even waiting to harden them off as my garage is not heated. My row covers have helped my cool weather veggies handle the frost and 32 degree temps. Thankfully the leaves from my very large trees also create a protection in most of my garden.

    • I suppose a gardener can learn and be wary planting too early, but getting a month’s jump can get plants hardy and growing. I take the chance each year and have been lucky with using some prudence. I don’t tell clients to plant early because they would never take precaution. Trees do help somewhat as does and perennial that are taller and shading. Some of my annuals sit under perennials that will fade by summer, so they were not covered and did fine.

  6. bittster says:

    Good tips. We had a touch of frost this last week and considering our last frost usually runs around May 15th this was a surprise. I rarely go by the calendar though and since this spring has been running behind nothing real tender was outside yet.

    • We have had it very late even Memorial day once that I can remember. Plants would get a really late start if we waited until May 30. I start early every year. The weather has been unpredictable and in the early 90’s we had such a cold rainy summer one year, not much bloom happened.

  7. I learned years ago it’s simply not worth it to put out tender veggies and annuals (and new perennials) until Memorial Day (in my zone and locale). Anytime before that, the plants simply sit in the soil and either stagnate or die from the cold. I do plant annuals in pots that can be covered and hanging baskets that can be carried in. And, as you say, watering helps the annuals and emerged perennials to make it through the cold nights. I figure the native woodland plants are on their own–too many to cover, and they seem to know when it’s OK to emerge and grow.

    • I only start cold weather veggies early not tomatoes and peppers. We have the same May 30th recommendation here, but you can see how I ignore it each year without loss. It just takes being cautious. We can have frost late, so if we want to have bloom by garden walk time, gardens must plant early. A tip I can pass along how they do it is some use the pot in pot method. Dig a hole for seasonal plants and fill it with an empty plastic pot. Drop in the seasonal flowers from the nursery. They can be easily switched out when finished for the season. The advantage is changing blooms each year and also if some look bad by garden walk time, a new replacement can be dropped in. I don’t do that, but it is a good idea for late frost time too.

  8. Useful tip Donna. My husband always questions why I am watering when there is a frost warning in effect and I exclaim…it helps hydrate the plants and provides a buffer around the roots so they don’t freeze! Thank you for confirming this! Good tip about covering them as well.

  9. lucindalines says:

    Such great information. I knew water was good, but never understood why. Thanks for the great information!

  10. Great tips! When we get 80-degree temperatures in early May, it can seem like summer is here to stay.

    • I agree. The warm weather stayed too, until it didn’t. Some year it may happen in June, who knows? At least the 10 day forecast has us in the 50 and 60’s for night time temps.

  11. Glad your plants survived. It was cold here but not freezing. I liked it knowing that six almost 90 degree days were coming. Very dry here.

    • Same here, the temps rose only after one cool 60° day. We have not had rain in a month. Buffalo got rain a few times, but not here in Niagara. We are surrounded by water, but none fell.

  12. Good post. Traditionally our “frost free” date is May 15 but this year we haven’t had a frost since around May 1.

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