Alicia DeVore
cold written in icy layer on top of ground

Freezing Temperature

It's getting cold outside.....can I still have a garden when it is freezing temperatures outside? 

When I first started gardening, I only attempted growing through the hot, summer months because the rest of the year seemed just too hard to keep things alive.

How could I possibly keep plants alive when it was freezing weather outside with cold temperatures? Could I still keep producing organic fresh vegetables all through freezing temperatures?  Spoiler Alert!  You can.  Keep reading to find out how.

Growing a Garden in Cold Temps

As I expanded my garden & understanding of what to plant and when for the best results, I started adding vegetables to my garden in the fall and winter.

I found 5 ways to protect the garden when the temperature is at freezing levels in fall and spring. Using these tips and knowing the timing of using these hacks helped me to keep my garden growing through the winter months. And I hope this post can help you start growing in the fall and winter months with success.

Gardening All Season Long

Now when the cold freezing weather comes, I don't have to lose out on fresh veggies. Instead, I just walk out to my kitchen garden to grab some greens to go in my stew, soups, stir fry, or sauteed as toppings to my pizza or eggs. I know that I can continue harvesting nourishing greens & root vegetables all season long, no matter how cold it gets.

What is the easiest way home gardeners can grow through the harsh conditions of winter?

What temperature Does Frost Kill a Veggie Garden?

When the temperature gets to 35 degrees or under, that is when frost and freezing conditions happen. Frost damage is a type of vegetation injury that occurs when plant tissue is exposed to freezing or near-freezing temperatures.

This heavy damage can occur during the growing season when frost or freeze events happen unexpectedly, or it can occur in the off-season if plants are not properly protected from cold weather.

The extent of frost damage depends on:

  • How low the temperature gets.
  • How long the plant is exposed to frosty conditions without protection.
  • The timing of when the plant was added to the garden.
  • The type of vegetable planted.

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What are the Signs of Frost Damage?

Frost damage is more common in young plants, tender plants, and those that are already stressed from lack of water or nutrients. Symptoms of frost damage include wilting, leaf scorch, and browning or blackening of leaves and stems. In extreme cases, this freezing point can kill a plant in a hard freeze.

What Happens to Plant Cells in Freezing Temperatures?

When the temperature is freezing then it makes it difficult for plants to survive in a hard frost without protection. Plant cells are mostly water, and when water freezes, it expands. This can cause the cell walls to rupture, which leads to cell death. This plant tissue damage is what causes the plant leaves and stems to turn brown or black.

5 Ways to Protect Plants from Frost Damage

Frost damage is a serious threat to many sensitive plants, especially in cold climates. If you live in an area that gets cold enough to frost (35 degrees and under), there are several steps you can take to protect your plants. Check out this article for even more tips for winter gardening. 

  1. 1
    Plant Cloth or Row Covers: One best option for extra protection of plants from frost damage is to use frost blankets or covers to cover plants. These provide a barrier between the plant and the cold air, preventing the frost from coming into contact with the plant. This will give your garden the best chance of surviving a light frost.
  2. 2
    Cover Entire Plant: When using plant cloth or plastic to cover your garden, make sure that the cloth is covering the whole garden with no openings to let in cold, wind, or snow. You want to protect the plants from heat loss. Make sure that the supports or hoops that you use will be easy to attach the plant cloth with clips to create a warmer environment for your garden.
  3. 3
    Greenhouse Effect: If your area only gets light frosts during the cold season, then remove the plant cloth or plastic in the morning when the frost is gone because it is getting enough heat. If you are in a climate where the climate is below freezing for most of the cold season, then don't remove the plant cloth or plastic in winter. The plant cloth will protect your plants with warm air from the cold weather and help them survive. Check the temperature inside the protected garden areas to make sure that it is not getting too hot for your plants. You are creating a mini-greenhouse with plant cloth and plastic.
  4. 4
    Insulation: Using insulation materials such as straw or hay to help protect your plants is also a good idea. Simply place the insulation around the base of the plant, making sure that it is well-covered.
  5. 5
    Watering: Water your plants thoroughly before frost is expected. The water will help to insulate the roots and prevent them from freezing with the moist soil. Dry soil creates a vulnerable plant.
when does frost kill vegetable gardens & 5 ways to protect with orange leaf and frost on grass in background

If you take these precautions, you will help ensure that your plants survive even the coldest frosty nights.

Veggies Can Survive Cold Weather Conditions

When it comes to garden plants, not all of them are created equal. Some are far more sensitive to cold weather conditions than others. If you live in an area with a colder climate, you'll need to be choosy about what vegetables you plant in your garden.

There are a few veggies, however, that are much hardier and can survive even the coldest conditions. These include Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. All of these plants are native to cooler climates and can tolerate frost and snow with ease. So if you're looking to grow veggies in a colder climate, these are some of the best options.

To read more about what tips you can do to protect winter garden, check out this blog post

Early Spring

In early spring, when you think that the weather forecast is calling for lower temperatures after you have planted your tender plants, then be proactive and add the protective measures in this blog post. Your plants have new growth and are sensitive to unexpected cold fronts in late spring frosts. Late frosts have been something that has been happening more and more with the climate change.

And if you want more information about growing in the summer, check out this article on 10 easiest veggies to grow in the heat. 

Tips on Growing your Veggies in Cold Climates:

  • Check the national weather service for frost advisory so that you are not surprised and can protect your garden. Use this weather report to know what to do in your garden.

  • Know your last frost date and plant before a light freeze can hit.
  • Plant vegetables that like the cool weather at 35-75 degrees. For spring, plant those tender plants 6-8 weeks before the first frost date so that their roots are completely established before the cold weather sets in.
  • Know your average frost dates.
  • Choose varieties of cool-weather crops like lettuce, kale, and spinach that are all good choices for cold-weather gardens.
  • The best way to get a garden growing is to plan in advance what you are going to grow so that you can enjoy fresh veggies all fall & winter long - even if you live in a cold climate.
  • Not all types of plants do well in cold weather. Growing tomato plants won't work even with protection because the chance of frost is too much for them. Tomatoes and other warm vegetable plants like eggplant and peppers thrive in warm weather. Find vegetable crops that can handle moderate freeze like root crops.

Have you tried growing greens & lettuce through the cool seasons? Check out this short and useful course on extending gardening through winter for gardening success.

The Benefits of Growing Veggies:

You may have thought about growing your vegetables but weren't quite sure where to start. Or maybe you're an experienced gardener looking for a new challenge. Either way, growing your own fresh, organic food grown in your backyard through the cold months is worth it.

Many people are surprised to learn that they can grow their favorite vegetables year-round, even in colder climates. With a little planning and some basic equipment, you can enjoy fresh greens, root vegetables, and herbs all winter long.

In addition to being delicious, home-grown vegetables are also more nutritious than store-bought varieties. Since they haven't been transported long distances or sitting on store shelves, they retain more of their vitamins and minerals. And since you control what goes into your soil, you can be sure that your crops are free of harmful pesticides and other chemicals.

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, growing your veggies is a fun and rewarding experience. I think of growing my food as a tasty hobby.

In conclusion: 

Frost can kill a veggie garden and itโ€™s important to be aware of the temperature threshold as well as the signs of frost damage. Be prepared for any cold snaps in fall, winter, or spring gardening with frost protection.

Use the 5 ways to protect your plants from frosts in this blog post, such as covers, insulation, and water before a frost. By taking these precautions, gardeners can minimize the risk of frost damage to their veggie gardens. Start using your garden year-round and enjoy the benefits of it by protecting it through the seasons.

And when you are ready to get ready to grow for summer, check out this blog post on easy veggies to grow in summer. 

Check out this resource page on what products I use in my garden to help protect from frost. 

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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