Plant Protection Tips for Frost and Freezing Weather
Consider these plant protection tips for frost and freezing weather this Fall and Winter. Jacksonville, Florida’s coldest months are December through February, with January being the coldest, with daily temperatures ranging from 45F to 65F. Typically, frost and freezing temperatures are limited to these months.
1. Choose the right plant for the right place. Plant your cold-sensitive plants primarily on the southern-facing sides of homes and other structures to provide a wind block from cold northern wind exposure. When developing your landscape plan, consider the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zone you are planting in, and for best results, also consider the cold tolerance of your choice of plants. Northeast Florida USDA hardiness zones include inland 8b (min. avg. temp. 15-20F) and coastal 9a (min. avg. temp. 20-25F). Native and naturalized plants typically have the cold tolerance to survive frost and freeze events.
2. Cover your plants: Use blankets, burlap, tarps, or frost cloths to cover susceptible plants before sunset. Ensure the cover reaches the ground and is secure with rocks or stakes to trap warmth. Only use plastic to build frames around your plants, creating a greenhouse effect around them. Do not allow the plants to come into direct contact with the plastic, which will result in freeze damage.
3. Water the plants: Water your plants thoroughly before a frosty night. Moist soil retains more heat than dry soil and can help insulate the roots.
4. Mulch around the plants: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the base of your plants. Mulch helps retain soil heat and moisture, protecting against freezing temperatures. Unlike states further north, our Florida soil doesn’t get cold enough in winter to freeze.
5. Group container plants: If you have potted plants, cluster them together on an insulated surface, like a porch or patio, creating a microclimate that provides some protection from the cold.
6. Install windbreaks: Erect temporary or permanent windbreaks on the windward side of your plants. This can help reduce cold air movement and protect them from freezing temperatures.
7. Move potted plants indoors: If possible, bring potted plants indoors during frosty nights and freezing temperatures. Place them near a sunny window or provide supplementary artificial lighting to mimic their preferred growing conditions.
8. Monitor weather forecasts: Stay updated on local weather forecasts to anticipate frost and freezing conditions. Take necessary measures to protect your plants when frost or freeze warnings are issued. Remember, not all plants will require the same level of protection, and some may be more frost-resistant than others. It’s essential to understand the specific needs of your landscape plants to provide the best care and protection during frosty periods.
Additionally, frost often surprises property owners as it can occur several degrees above freezing temperature when the dew point is below 32F. Don’t be caught off guard, as there have been instances in the Jacksonville area of near 40F air temperatures with frost formation. Clouds form an insulated layer in the atmosphere that traps warm air and reduces the risk of frost, which most commonly occurs on calm, clear nights.
According to the National Weather Service, Jacksonville’s average first freeze date is December 12, and the earliest is November 03. The first frost date in Jacksonville’s forecast models is November 29. These forecast models are 30-year averages last updated for the 1991 to 2020 period and will be done again in 2030.
Jacksonvilles – Lowest Temperature Date Prior Five Years
- December 25, 2022- 20F
- February 03, 2021 – 36F
- December 26, 2020 – 31F
- January 30, 2019 – 36F
- January 18, 2018 – 27F
Be prepared as, for instance, ten days into Winter 2022, Winter Storm Elliott delivered below-freezing temperatures between December 23 and 28, one of the Top 10 coldest five days in 151 years of Jacksonville history.
Keep up to date with the latest forecasts at the National Weather Service.
Nick Bonn provides more plant protection tips in the accompanying video.
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From our office in Atlantic Beach and satellites throughout Northeast Florida, Rockaway Inc proudly serves both commercial and residential landscape design, maintenance, lawn care, irrigation, and outdoor living carpentry client needs in Jacksonville, St Augustine, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra, Nocatee, St. Johns, and Fernandina Beach.