How to Prepare Your Garden for the First Frost - Backyard Boss
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How to Prepare Your Garden for the First Frost

With summer gone and your fall garden in full swing, you may already dream of spring blooms. However, before you reap the rewards of fall planting, you must prepare your garden for the first frost. While there are many fall gardening tasks, one of the most important is protecting your yard from the impending cool weather.

Below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about protecting and planting your garden, from a list of tools you’ll need to helpful tips. With this knowledge under your belt, your plants won’t fall victim to the chilly weather, and your spring garden will be fully prepared.

Tools You’ll Need

Pruning tools
Image credits: stux via Pixabay

To properly prepare your garden for cooler days, there are a few tools you’ll need to gather. Fortunately, they are items many gardeners will already have in their collection. Check out the essentials below.

  • Gardening gloves
  • Rake
  • Hand trowel
  • Pruning shears
  • Landscape fabric
  • Bulbs, shrubs, trees (optional)
  • Mulch

Prepping Your Garden for the First Frost

Step 1: Bringing Plants Indoors

plant in living room by window
Image credits: Charlotte May via Pexels

Many outdoor plants won’t survive in cooler weather, so deal with them before the first frost is near. With that in mind, you need to determine what plants are at risk, such as summer container perennials and tropical plants. Don’t worry about cold-hardy plants such as lettucecarrots, and broccoli.

When a frost is forecast, it’s time to move these plants to a warmer location — you can add tropicals to your indoor plant collection or store dormant perennials in the garage. Alternatively, if the frost isn’t expected to last long, you can move the plants to a sunny spot with a southern exposure near the side of the house.

Remember to inspect and isolate plants you bring indoors to avoid spreading diseases or pests.

Step 2: Protect Plants

Tree in pot is wrapped in fleece for the winter
Image credits: Tanja Esser via Shutterstock

Protect the plants in the garden when you expect a frost by covering them with landscape fabric before sunset and using rocks to hold down the corners. Use this method on nights when temperatures drop as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, placing heat lamps around the plants is ideal for saving them from chilly weather, just check your plants light requirements first. Also, adding a 3-inch layer of mulch, such as straw or newspaper, around the roots of these plants acts as insulation and helps them retain moisture. 

Remember that drought-stressed plants are susceptible to cold damage, so watering a few days before the predicted frost is beneficial. Plus, when the water freezes and expands, it acts as an insulator, protecting the plants from the cold.

Avoid fertilizing and pruning cold-sensitive plants when you expect a frost. These tasks will encourage new growth, which is susceptible to cold damage.

Step 3: Clear the Garden

Raked up fall leaves
Image credits: Peggychoucair via Pixabay

Remember to complete fall gardening chores before the first frost. It includes tasks such as harvesting the final fruits and vegetables from your summer crops. Take this opportunity to clear away dead annuals and plants, weed the garden, and rake up leaves.

It is also the time to deadhead and prune back dead growth, which means you can collect seeds of annuals and perennials. You can store the seeds using several different DIY options, from a simple envelope to an old Tic Tac container.

Place spent plants and overripe fruits or bolted veggies in the compost container. With that said, keep an eye out for diseases or pests. If you spot any signs, such as yellow leaves, wilting, or infestations, it’s best to toss them away and keep them out of your compost.

Step 4: Plant Spring Bulbs, Trees, and Shrubs

Bulbs of daffodils and heather seedlings ready for autumn planting.
Image credits: iMarzi via Shutterstock

While you should have already begun planting your fall garden, it’s best to plant your spring bulbsshrubs, and trees before freezing temperatures. It will allow the plants to develop strong root systems. September and October are recommended times for fall planting, so it’s best to get started now!

Step 5: Handle Irrigation Systems

Garden hose coil
Image credits: Mike B via Pexels

Switching off and draining water lines is essential when you expect a frost. The freezing temperatures could damage your sprinkler systemsgarden hoses, and outdoor faucets, so it’s crucial to drain them as soon as possible. Store these essential irrigation systems indoors, in a shed, or under a tarp to protect them.

Don’t Let the Frost Bite!

Now, you’ve got a to-do list to complete before the frosty nights make their way into your garden. Start with bringing in plants that won’t survive the cold, or protect them by placing them in a sunny location or using row covers. Then, clear the garden, begin planting for your spring garden, and drain your irrigation systems. As one final tip, remember to check the weather forecast to know when to expect the first frost!

Do you have any tips for preparing a garden for cooler weather? Share in the comments below!