Protect your plants and flowers from deep freeze

DID YOU ALREADY plant your flower beds or patio pots for the season? Even with a deep freeze on the way, you may still be able to save them. Bring potted plants inside if you can, or, cover them with cardboard if they are too heavy to move, said Sunshine Garden Center's Sarah Beach. Photo by Marney Simon.

Marney Simon

Just because the calendar reads May doesn't mean we're out of the grasp of Old Man Winter here in the Midwest.

The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning beginning at midnight tonight until early Saturday morning.

The warning means a hard freeze is expected in north central and northeast Illinois, with lows dropping into the 20s. 

A freeze warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely. These conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation, according to the NWS, and folks should steps now to protect tender plants from the cold.

The Free Press Newspapers asked Sunshine Garden Center Executive Director Sarah Beach for some tips to protect your plants if you've already started your spring gardens and flower beds:

FP - If my flowers or vegetables are already in the ground, what's the best way to protect them during a freeze? 

SB - I recommend putting a bucket or cardboard box over the top of them. 

FP - What should I do with my potted outdoor plants?

SB - If you are able to move them, bring them inside or tuck them into the garage. If they are too heavy to move then try to protect them with a towel, sheet or box. 

FP - How will I know if my plants are damaged?
SB - If your plants are burned from the cold you will start to see them curl up and either dry up or turn black. Give it a day for the damage to set in and then you can prune away anything that was damaged to help promote new growth.
FP - What's the best advice for trying to protect my flower beds if they are already started?
SB - In most cases, your perennial flower beds are pretty well hardened off and are more resilient to the cold temperatures. If something is flowering you can put a sheet or blanket of the top to help preserve your flower buds. You can also spray the larger bushes and trees with water to help insulate the leaves and buds.
A freeze warning is issued when significant, widespread freezing temperatures are expected, according to the NWS. Minimum shelter temperature is forecast to be 32 degrees or less during the locally defined growing season. The freeze warning expires at 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 9.