How Do I Protect My Plants from Freezing?

Every Monday we tackle common lawn and garden questions on Home Dish. Today we referred to expert Julie Weisenhorn, state director of the Master Gardening Program, University of Minnesota Extension. For more information about Master Gardening programs in your county, visit

Now that summer has faded into fall and we’re experiencing freezing overnight temps, it’s time to protect your vegetables. Here are some how-to tips:

• Cover plants with row covers or old blankets or sheets to trap warm air around them overnight. Remove the coverings as the day warms up.

• Plants like pansies, kale, collards, and cabbage do well in cooler temperatures. Carrots and other root vegetables are insulated by the soil and can be dug into colder weather, so no need to pull these up right away. They will “sweeten up” as the cold temperatures cause the sugars in the edible roots to concentrate.

Move houseplants indoors after checking them over for insects and disease. Prune off dead foliage and clean out debris that may have accumulated on the soil surface. Wash any soil, cobwebs, etc. off the pot, and don’t forget to check the bottom! This is a good time to re-pot plants with fresh, sterile soil. Check out the UMN publication: Houseplant Insect Control for more information.

Bring amaryllis bulbs indoors. Check them over for pests and debris, and prune off any dead leaves. Set them in a dark cool place and stop watering them. This is a resting period. Remove them in December, water them, and put them in a sunny window for a beautiful holiday bloom. Check out the UMN publication: Growing and Caring for Amaryllis for more information.

• Remove or “lift” tender bulbs from the soil such as cannas, gladiolas, caladiums, begonias, dahlias, etc. once the vegetation is killed off by frost.

Got tomatoes? If tomatoes have started to ripen, pick them and bring them indoors in 55-70 degree temps (a kitchen counter works well or on top of the fridge). Or, pull up the entire plant and hang it up indoors (works well for light-weight cherry tomatoes). If your tomatoes are still hard and green, chances are they are going to stay that way. Look for recipes for green tomato chutney and green tomato salsa. And don’t forget about fried green tomatoes!

— Julie Weisenhorn, state director U of MN Extension Master Gardener

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