By Nanette Londeree
Marvelous Marin’s temperate climate lets us grow a plethora of plants, including some that aren’t particularly cold hardy. Your vibrant dwarf lemon tree, container of succulents or the bougainvillea adorning the wall of your home can fall prey to a sudden frost, and suffer, in some cases, irreparable damage.
With winter all around us, it’s prudent to watch for the classic signs that frost is on its way – dry, still and cloudless nights with temperatures at 45 degrees or below by 10 p.m. Large, open areas and low spots are usually the coldest locations in the garden, and tender plants growing in these areas warrant protection from freezing.
Plants suffer damage when their cells freeze, and subsequently burst as temperatures warm. Protect susceptible plants by first ensuring they are thoroughly watered (that helps prevent desiccation and aids the insulating effect of the soil). If you’ve got tender plants in portable containers, bring them indoors or move them underneath the eaves of your house. To raise the temperature of around plants that aren’t movable, cover them with cardboard boxes, burlap, cloth tarps, repurposed old sheets, towels or curtains, newspaper, pine branches or straw. The more opaque the cover is, the better it protects the plants. For best results, drape the cover over a frame to keep it from touching the foliage. Uncover them in the morning when the temperature rises above freezing.