To protect or not to protect-your plants from frost or freezing that is! It’s that time of year when we can and perhaps, depending on where you live, have frost or freezing temperatures. Obviously almost everywhere is cooler than the actual low at Sky Harbor airport. You should know about how much cooler your night time lows are so you can adequately prepare or not. Then the question is what plants need or warrant protection and how cold does it really need to get before damage occurs-and is damage always a bad thing?
It is pretty easy to search via the internet for plant hardiness these days so we wont spend much or any time telling you at what temperature certain plants may need covered or protected. The usual suspects are: natal plum, bougainvillea,lantana,hibiscus,ficus,semi tender annuals like geraniums,lobelia and warm season vegetables -tomatoes,peppers,basil (for those of you who insist on growing these in the winter months) It might be helpful to know which plants don’t need protection or at least the annual/bedding/vegetables that don’t. Snapdragons, Pansies, alyssum, primrose,stock,bacopa, leafy veggies, broccoli, cauliflower,cabbage, root crops…
Is some damage bad? Not really. It causes or forces us to do the kind of pruning and at the time we should be pruning severly to rejuvenate the plant anyway. If we would wait to prune most plants until just before spring flush and prune rather severely, we could get away from all this shearing that takes place in order to keep the plant to a manageable size. So whether a plant freezes or not prune in mid February or so and prune at least 1/3 of the plant size back and you’ll have a beautiful rejuvenated plant thru the spring and summer!
If you’re going to cover your plants: don’t use plastic or blue tarp type material. Breathable fabric or woven materials work the best and preferably those that are light weight and translucent so they can be left on for several days at a time. The coldest part of the day is at sunrise, when you are leaving for work, so don’t pull the cover off before you head off to the office-use a material that can just be left on for a few days!