Don't get caught off guard by freezing temperatures when frost is in the forecast. Instead of pondering what to cover and what to carry indoors, use our checklist to craft a simple to-do list for those first frosty nights. Learn where to invest your time to help crops survive, rescue the harvest and get ready for the real cold to come.
- Drain and coil hoses – Unwind your hose on a downward slope (even a slight slope works well). Standing at the top of the slope, pull the hose toward you, coiling as you go. Store hoses in a frost-free location, if possible. If not, remove all watering wands, nozzles or quick-connects and store these items in a frost-free spot.
- Winterize automatic irrigation systems – Shut off the main water supply, then open each valve in turn to relieve water and air pressure. If your system has a drain valve at the lowest point, use that to drain the system. Let valves remain open for a few minutes. In cold zones, use an air compressor to blow out any remaining water. Use the same process to drain drip irrigation systems.
- Disconnect hoses from exterior faucets – If frost precedes an extended period of freezing weather, shut off water to spigots. Drain any water remaining in the line. Install insulated spigot covers if necessary.
- Move or cover any houseplants that are still outdoors. Most houseplants should already be indoors before frost arrives. Discover tips for bringing plants indoors.
- Take cuttings of plants you intend to overwinter, such as scented geraniums, pineapple sage or basil.
- Research online if your favorite annuals can withstand a frost. Check out this list for some frost-tolerant choices.
- Cover plants that can't take frost. Learn the basics about covering plants for frost protection.
- Till the vegetable garden just before a hard freeze to expose insects that have burrowed into soil for winter. Glean other tips for eliminating overwintering pests on edible crops.
- Pick remaining peppers and any green tomatoes you plan to ripen indoors.
- Harvest pumpkins and winter squash before frost. Leave a 1-2-inch stem if you intend to store for winter.
- Clip final basil stems – frost will turn them to mush. Stash stems in a vase to savor garden-fresh flavor for a few more days. If stems root in water, plant them for an indoor potted herb.
- Allow Brussels sprouts, carrots, mustard greens and kale to experience frost. It improves the flavor.
- Let frost kill tops of tender bulbs such as Dahlia, Elephant's Ear, Tuberous Begonia and Canna. Dig bulbs after frost, shake off soil and dry before storing for winter.
- Don't worry about perennials. After a hard freeze, clip stalks of any plants you don't want to leave for winter interest.
- Turn on the heat – Plug in your birdbath heater or heated birdbath.
- Hang and fill bird feeders – Use a variety of feeders – including seed and suet blocks – to attract the most species.