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Gardeners and farmers are being warned of widespread overnight frosts this week as an arctic blast hits the UK, which could damage, harm or kill tender plants, crops and fruit blossom.

Temperatures are forecast to dip to and below freezing tonight and in the coming nights as low pressure from Iceland sweeps across the country, wrecking havoc for vulnerable greenery and fruit growers.

Frosts that accumulate overnight can cause water inside plants to freeze, leading to the plant cells bursting and resulting in irreparable damage, dry and shriveled up growth and loss of produce.

Plants that are sensitive to frost in containers should be taken indoors.

(Susanne Nilsson/Flickr Creative Commons)

However, there are several steps gardeners and farmers can take to ensure their foliage is protected from the overnight freezes.

Here we have rounded up all you need to know about protecting plants, shrubs, trees, bulbs, vegetables and flowers during a cold snap.
1. Understand how plants react to frost and freeze:

The first thing gardeners and farmers should do is familiarize themselves with the different ways various greenery reacts to cold weather.

Tropical and frost-tender plants are unable to survive freezing temperatures – they can only grow naturally in warm environments and climates. Annual plants cannot survive a freeze either. But they disperse seeds to regain their numbers when warm weather arrives.

The foliage of root-hardy perennials is killed off by frosty weather, but the roots survive by laying dormant until the following spring.

While Trees, shrubs and full hardy perennials enter a dormant state entirely, lessening their vulnerability to icy temperatures by decreasing their content of sap and conserving water. Blooms and early foliage that may blossom in early spring might be damaged by freezes in late-spring, but these plants tend to recover themselves.
2. Bring plants indoors:

Plants that are sensitive to frost in containers should be taken indoors throughout a cold spell. You can dig up tender bulbs are keep them in a dry and cool area.
3. Hydrate plants:

If a freeze is on the way, gardeners and farmers should water plants thoroughly prior. This will prevent any desiccation. On top of this, adding insulating water to plant cells and soil will stop plants from drying out further.
4. Tender sprouts need to be covered:

You can do this with an upside-down bucket or flower pot, or with a helping of mulch. When the temperature rise back to above freezing the following day, make sure to take off any covers to allow for sunlight.
5. Use a lamp:

Outdoor lamps, specifically a 100-watt lamp designed for outdoor use, can be placed in the interior of a small tree. The lamp can distribute enough warmth for the tree to reduce frost damage. Fairy lights that are not LED lights can serve a similar function, as long as they are not in contact with any covering material.

6. Spray an anti-transpiration:

These should be available at your local garden center, and can be sprayed on the foliage of frost-tender plants to seal in moisture. One application coats leaves with an invisible polymer film, that can protect a plant for as long as three months.

Tender sprouts need to be covered.

(Drew Folta/Flickr Creative Commons)

7. Cover trees and shrubs:

Old bed sheets, burlap, commercial frost cloths or fabric should be used to cover larger plants. Aim to drape covers over a trellis or a frame to stop it from directly touching the foliage; it is important to not allow your cloth covers to rest on top of your plants as heavy rain, frost or snow can penetrate the material and damage the plants.

Fabric covers help trap heat from soil, so you should strive to secure covers right to the ground, perhaps using a brick around the edges as a weight so the cover doesn’t get blown away by wind.

An extra layer of protection could be used over the cover in the form of plastic to ensure your cloth cover doesn’t lose any insulating functions from wet snow or rain. This can be done easily via a plastic sheet, greenhouse film or tarp.

Take off the cover in the morning when the temperature rise.
8. Evaluate any losses:

Even if damage is visible, hardy perennials, shrubs and trees will often recover a late spring freeze. Although blooms and fruit produce may be lost for the year, once they start to grow again you’ll be able to get rid of any permanent harm to stems and branches.

Avoid planting frost-tender plants until freezing weather has definitely passed as these do not survive frost.
9. Learn to practice prevention measures:

For the best results in your garden, try to choose plants that can survive the climate zone you are in – if you’re in the north of England where cold weather is a regular occurrence hardy perennials work best in chilly conditions.

Steer clear of applying fertilizer until after the last spring frost, this will prevent a flush of tender growth that can be at risk of damage by the chill.
10. Try not to overreact to any damage:

Plants can be impressively resilient, if any signs of frost damage can be seen do not dig up plants straight away or prune off damaged areas, especially palms. It is best to wait until warm weather returns and see whether new leaves develop.

There may be new healthy growth at the base or root of the plant, it is at this point you can get rid of any damage.

However if no new sprouting is noted, replace with more frost-resistant plants. Research reveals that many plants and crops can recover from brief dips of sub-zero temperatures, but when temperatures reach -2C it begins to cause ample cellular harm and crop loss.

Make sure you nurture and tend to any plants that have been damaged by frost is beneficial to maintain the health of your plants all year long.