Fall will quickly fade into winter, and depending on where you live, that may mean blustery winds, frost and snow. While you can never really predict the exact date of the first frost, you can prepare for it and protect your plants ahead of time so that you aren't stuck in the garden trying to save what's left of the work you put in this summer and fall.
When planning ahead for frost and gathering safety tips for winter, you will also want to consider the microclimate of your yard. If you have sheltered areas then it's likely that plants in this specific spot of your garden won't frost at the same time that plants more out in the open do.
Average Frost Dates By Region
South: In the South, you can expect the first autumn frost to make its appearance anywhere between October 30 and November 30.
Midwest & Northeast: The average date of the first autumn frost in the Midwest can arrive anywhere between August 30 to October 30, similar to the Northeast.
West: Due to the Rocky Mountains, there is a large range of when the first autumn frost can show up. In the mountains, you can see a first arrive as soon as June while those in California may not see frost until the end of December.
Southwest: Similar to the West, the Southwest can see frost arrive anywhere between June and December. The further south and away from the mountains you live, the more likely that the first autumn frost will hold off until the end of December.
Northwest: Most of the Northwest sees its first autumn frost anywhere between August 30 and September 30, although some areas may not see it until October.
Tips For Protecting Plants in the Winter
Bring Them In: When you want to protect your plants from frost, you can bring in the ones that are potted inside at night. Although it may be a little messy if the soil spills over while you're carrying them, you'll be much more happy knowing that the hard work of planting them won't go to waste because of winter frost that killed them. Even if you don't want to bring them in your house, try to give them some shelter in a garage or shed, somewhere that won't leave them directly affected by the cold and frosty weather.
Lay a Blanket: If you have plants in the ground that you don't want to die because of the cold weather, take an old sheet or blanket and place it over them. Make sure that the blanket or sheet isn't too heavy so it doesn't weigh down or kill the plants. If you're expecting a hard freeze, be sure to take a couple of buckets or milk jugs of warm water and place them under the cloth and near the plants. Gardeners who have outdoor lights near the plants may want to turn them on so the bulbs generate a little extra heat to help keep your flowers warm.
Avoid Direct Contact with Plastic: If you want to put plastic down, remember that you'll damage your plants if you put it directly on the flowers themselves. To avoid this, put a cloth barrier between the plants and plastic. You can use the sheet or blanket idea while also putting down plastic to help protect your plants from winter frost.
Cover with Mulch: If you live in a region of the country that doesn't experience too much cold weather throughout winter, then you have the option of covering your plants with mulch. Keep in mind that this will only work with low plantings, but if the frost and cold won't stick around too long this is a less time consuming measure.