Don't get caught off guard by freezing temperatures or frost. Use our checklist to protect your landscape and plants from cold.
Where It Freezes Regularly, Prepare Irrigation
- Drain and store hoses. Disconnect hoses from faucets (see below for how to protect faucets) and unwind on a slope (even a slight slope works well). Standing at or near the top of the slope, pull the hose toward you, coiling it neatly as you go. If possible, store the hoses in a protected location, such as a garage or storage shed. If not, remove all watering wands, nozzles or quick-connects and store them where it won’t freeze.
- Winterize automated irrigation. Turn off the main water supply, then open each valve one by one to relieve water and air pressure. If your system has a drain valve at the lowest point, use it to remove the water. Let valves open for a few minutes, then close. In cold zones where the ground regularly freezes, use an air compressor to blow out any remaining water. Drain drip irrigation systems in similar fashion.
- Protect exterior faucets. If forecasts predict extended period of freezing weather, shut off water to spigots. Drain water remaining in the line. Install insulated spigot covers to prevent them from freezing.
- Move or cover houseplants that are still outdoors. Most houseplants should be indoors well before frosty weather. For tips for bringing plants indoors.
- Protect cuttings of plants you intend to overwinter, such as scented geraniums, pineapple sage or basil, by bringing them indoors.
- Check online or in a good gardening book to see if your favorite annuals can withstand a frost.
- Cover plants that can't take frost. Learn the basics about covering plants for frost protection.
Protect the Vegetable Garden
- Till the vegetable garden just before a hard frost or freeze to expose insects that have burrowed into soil to overwinter. For other tips, check eliminating overwintering pests on edible crops.
- Pick any remaining tender vegetables, such as peppers and any green tomatoes, that you plan to ripen indoors.
- Gather pumpkins and winter squash before frost. Leave a 1-2-inch stem and store them in a cool dry, protected location if you intend to use them later.
- Cut final basil stems – frost will turn them to mush. Stash stems in a vase of water to savor garden-fresh flavor for a few more days. Don’t put them in the refrigerator. It will turn them black. If stems root in water, start an indoor potted herb garden.
- Leave Brussels sprouts, carrots, mustard greens and kale in place. A good frost can improve flavor.
- Let frost kill foliage of tender bulbs such as Dahlia, Elephant's Ear, Tuberous Begonia and Canna. After that, dig the bulbs with a garden fork, shake off soil and dry before storing for winter.
- Don't worry about hardy perennials. After a hard freeze, cut back stalks of plants you don't want to leave for winter interest.
Don’t Forget the Birds
- Switch on the heat. Plug in and turn on your birdbath heater or heated birdbath.
- Provide food. Fill bird feeders. Hanging a variety of feeders – including seed and suet blocks – will attract the most species.