How To Prepare Your Garden for Frost

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.

 

Irrigation

  • 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.

 

Houseplants

  • 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.

 

Annuals

 

Vegetable Garden

  • 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.

 

Planting beds

  • 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.

 

Birds

  • Turn on the heat. Plug in your birdbath heater or heated birdbath.
  • Hang and fill birdfeeders. Use a variety of feeders – including seed and suet blocks – to attract the most species.