Affordable Methods to Shield Canadian Plants from Frost: Protect Your Garden without Breaking the Bank

When it comes to protecting your precious plants from frost, it’s not always necessary to break the bank. There are cost-effective solutions that can help keep your greenery safe from chilling temperatures. Covering your plants provides a physical barrier against cold air, ensuring they remain healthy and vibrant. It’s all about being proactive and getting those covers on before temperatures dip anywhere near freezing.

Bell-shaped covers are a popular choice, particularly for tender young transplants in the spring. But let’s be honest, these can take up a lot of space and might be a bit pricey. Don’t worry, there are other options. Transparent cloches, sheet plastic supported on hoops, and many types of frost covers can be left on during extra cold days, providing an affordable and effective solution.

But what if you’re in a pinch? It’s okay to lightly drape frost covers directly on top of your plants, as long as they’re lightweight and your plants are mature enough not to get smashed. It’s certainly better than leaving them exposed. And don’t forget your potted plants – they’re more susceptible to frost damage as their roots aren’t as insulated. A blanket, horticultural fleece, or even bubble wrap can provide that extra layer of protection they need.

Cheap Way to Cover Plants from Frost

Splendid indeed is the greenery of your favourite plants, a sight dear to every gardener’s heart. Yet, the looming threat of frost might give you a few sleepless nights. You’re not alone in this, but there’s a silver lining here, frost protection for plants need not be a wallet-draining exercise!

Covering your plants effectively shields them from dipping temperatures. A lightweight sheer, draped gently over your green friends before the mercury hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit, could be your first line of defence. Daybreak heralds the removal of these covers, letting the sun’s rays breathe warmth back into your greens.

Frost protection measures span a wide spectrum, from towering, bell-shaped covers to easy-to-roll-out sheet plastic. But economical and space-efficient options like frost covers stand out amidst these. Yes, those bell-shaped protectors might seem fancy, but remember, they’re rather bulky and best suited for tender young plants in their nascent growth stages.

When Jack Frost is on the horizon remember – the cover of darkness is your ally. Indeed, frost sessions are primarily overnight affairs. So, feel free to leave on your transparent cloches, sheet plastic supported on hoops, or thin frost covers through chilly nights and even on extra cold days. However, keep your plants happy by being a dutiful gardener and removing these covers in the late morning, for a good session of sunbathing, fresh air, and photosynthesis is just what your plants crave. While plants can survive a few days without sunlight, they understandably get grumpy as days go on!

Those darling potted plants of yours might need extra armour. Being more susceptible to frost damage due to less insulated roots needs to bring out your creativity. Extra protection can be provided with a simple blanket, horticultural fleece wrap, or bubble wrap wrapped around the pots on those unnervingly cold nights. And, don’t forget the mulch!

Why Cover Plants from Frost

Abating the biting blow of frost is a chore every gardener must grapple with. Your precious plants stand vulnerable as temperatures plummet, launching you into a preventive mode. Frost doesn’t play games, making it’s imperative to shield your plants from its icy grip.

Protecting Plants from Cold Temperatures

As temperatures dip towards 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to grab those lightweight sheets. Your plants need a cosy shield from the cooling air temperatures. But don’t forget to ease their cover to let in some warmth come morning. You’re essentially helping your plants to bask under the sun rays after a cold night’s spell.

How about when temperatures plunge lower than 28 degrees? That’s a “hard frost” or a “killing frost”, and it introduces an existential threat to your frost-sensitive plants. Protecting your blooms before this grief hits, either by covering them, keeping the soil moist or adding a bit of heat, extends their lifespan as you reap the last harvest.

Preventing Frost Damage

Time to introduce your plants to some fancy fabric. A frost cloth is an important character in this wintry plot. When laid over your plants, usually stretched on hoops, this fabric injects some needed warmth – defending against the icy moist air. In fact, frost cloths can go as far as defending your plants from frost damage in outdoor temperatures as low as 20 degrees – impressive, isn’t it?

Plastic sheets also serve similar purposes. Supported on arched hoops, they’re labeled as polytunnels. One upside of polytunnels lies in granting your plants the chance to photosynthesise, only apeak when the plastic is clear. With plastic, you need to mind the breathability limitations. Don’t forget to loosen the end of tunnels during the daytime, allowing the plants to exchange some fresh air.

Stepping outside your traditional covering, a cardboard box is an ace up your sleeve when consecutive chilly nights are forecasted. Remember to check your box isn’t soggy or it could collapse onto your plants after a while.

Materials Needed to Cover Plants

Materials Needed to Cover Plants

As winter approaches, protecting your plants from frost is vital. It’s a straightforward task as you have probably already got most of the necessary materials at home. Let’s guide you through it.

Sheets or Blankets

Don’t turn a blind eye to those old bedspreads, blankets, and large towels stashed away in your closet. These can prove to be of utmost help in preventing frost damage to your plants. Drape them loosely over your plants. It’s beneficial to create a dome of insulation, so make sure the cover extends all the way to the ground. In case of winds, secure the fabric to the ground with bricks, stones, or anything heavy. It’s also crucial to take off the coverings by mid-day so that your plants don’t overheat and can receive their daily dose of sun and fresh air.

  • Rule of thumb: Woven fabric provides better protection than plastic or paper.
  • Pro tip: If you predict rain or snow alongside frost, add a layer of plastic sheets above your fabric to protect it.

Cardboard or Plastic Containers

For those who have a habit of holding on to trash, this is when you hit the jackpot. Leftover cardboard boxes from online orders or any solid-bottom container could be repurposed to protect individual plants. Cardboard boxes work excellently as they trap warmer air near the plant. On the night of a frost forecast, simply prop them over your plants.

  • Quick fact: Plants can protect from all but the hardest freeze (28°F for five hours) with a cover.

However, there is a catch when using cardboard boxes; If you have consecutive nights of frost, your box might get soggy and collapse onto your plants. Hence pay heed to the weather forecast. Once the frost season is over, you could also use the boxes as a weed blocking layer beneath mulch around fruit trees and garden paths.

You could also use plastic containers similar to hot caps. Re-purpose old two-litre bottles or gallon jugs with cut-off bottoms. Remember to save the lids to cap the containers, protecting your plants from the chilly night but remember to remove them during the day to allow sunlight and air circulation.

  • Fun fact: These methods of protecting plants started the 1940s when plastic became more widely available, and gardeners began looking for faster, less expensive alternatives to cold frames.

Techniques for Covering Plants

Frost can wreak havoc on plants, but luckily, you’re not defenceless against this natural phenomenon. In this section, we’re delving into different techniques for covering plants to protect them from frost damage.

Lightweight Covering

A top runner in the league of cost-effective solutions for frost protection is Lightweight Covering. Bed sheets, drop cloths, or medium-weight fabric will do just fine to protect your green friends.

Remember, you don’t want your covering smothering your plants — circulation is key. Drape the material loosely around your plants. Here’s a pro tip: don’t let the material rest on the flowers; secure it to the ground with heavy items instead. Rocks or bricks work well for this purpose, and stakes can be handy too.

Despite plastic being a popular choice, it’s best avoided. Why? Well, woven fabric provides better insulation. Moreover, unlike plastic, fabric allows air and moisture exchange, preventing overheating or suffocation of your plants.

Creating a Frame

Let’s dive into how you can create frames for your plants. One option is using those old bedspreads or large towels that you may have stored away. In a similar fashion to the lightweight cover method, you’ll want to drape these over your plants, creating a dome of insulation. This insulation helps trap heat that would otherwise escape into the cold night air. Woven fabrics will do a better job than plastic in this scenario, as well.

More hands-on folks might want to try their luck at making their own cold frame. Think of this fantastic invention as a mini greenhouse for your plants. You’d just need some old windows or frames — transparent, of course — and a raised garden bed.

You can even create a makeshift cold frame with slender metal rods and clear plastic. Insert the ends of the rods on either side of your plant row, loop the plastic sheet over the rods, secure it, and voila! Your plants are now protected.

One last highlight about cold frames: they’re an effective way of protecting your precious plants during winter. They even allow for a good harvest deep into the cold season. So why not repurpose those old frames that have been gathering dust in your attic and keep your plants from frostbite?

Notice that with each of these techniques, your plants will also need to breathe during the day. So, don’t forget to remove the coverings during the daytime to avoid overheating.

Preparing Plants for Frost

Preparing Plants for Frost

Even the hardiest of vegetables can wither under the icy touch of frost, transforming your verdant Eden into a winter wasteland. As an active partner in your garden’s struggle against frost, you’re instrumental in safeguarding your outdoor kingdom. Your primary defence against these frosty invaders is an arsenal of cost-effective solutions. Let’s dive into two practice that’s both easy on the pocket and heavy on results.

Watering Plants

Surprisingly, H2O plays a pivotal role in your garden’s frost defensive strategy. A well-watered plant is a frost resistant warrior. It’s all about the heat! Water retains up to 4 times more heat than dry soil. By pooling around your plant’s base, the moisture lifts overnight air temperature, providing an essential layer of protection against falling temperatures to the tune of 2-3˚F.

Saturate your plant beds early if frost is forecast, it gives your green friends plenty of time to absorb water before the mercury drops. Mind where you wet though! Watering the soil is key not the leaves. A drench before evening rolls in will help boost plants’ resistance to light frost.

Remember, thirsty plants are vulnerable to frost’s chilling effects as their cells are already stressed. A well-watered plant, therefore, isn’t just about hydration; it’s a sturdy protector against frost’s cruel touch.


Mention mulch to any gardener and you’ll be met with nods of agreement. Mulch is like a trusty blanket for your plants, providing warmth, retaining moisture, and preventing freezing, a perfect ingredient to your frost-fighting recipe.

Around the base of shrubs, tender perennials or young plants, scatter a generous amount of organic mulch to about 2 to 4 inches deep. This creates a comfy cushion for your plants that safeguards against frost. Some innovative mulch options include compost, wood chips or small bark, chopped leaves or leaf mold, and straw.

Make sure you leave an inch or two around the central stalk open, enabling the soil’s warmth to travel up through the plant. As an added bonus, once the frosty clutches of winter retreat, this mulch will become a nutrient-rich addition to your soil chemistry.

Best Time to Cover Plants

Understanding the optimal timing to shield your plants from frost is crucial too. The idea is to trap the nocturnal heat radiating from the soil; this trapped heat provides warmth for your plants when temperatures dip. It’s best to have all covers in place well before sunset. It’s all about being prepared and acting swiftly in response to frost forecasts.

When that cold night is predicted, it’s time to get those diligently stored covers out. Opt for burlap, old sheets, or clear plastic. To prevent direct contact between the cover and your plants, use stakes or any other support.

Sprinkle some water on your plants before draping the covers in the late afternoon or early evening. It’s important to recall here that the water should be sprinkled on soil around the plants, not on the leaves themselves.

Unfortunately, frost doesn’t always give much of a heads-up. Those one-off frosts may arrive early in the season. But don’t get distraught. It’s worth taking the time to protect your plants, since milder weather often follows shortly after. Have your sheets, or row covers ready. Store them somewhere dry, off the ground, neatly rolled up, out of vermin’s reach. And if you’ve opted for polythene covers, remember to wash them clean and have them ready for a speedy response to frost forecasts.

First thing in the morning, as soon as the temperature rises above freezing, it’s the right time to remove the covers. This is done to prevent condensation buildup on the leaves, which might invite diseases.

You’re probably wondering how to protect your smaller plants. It’s simpler than you’d expect. Just recycle milk or soda bottles by cutting out the bottom. These self-made “hot caps” are perfect for your smaller greens!


You’ve seen how vital it is to shield your plants from frost and we’ve discussed cost-effective methods to do so. Remember, watering your plants before a frosty night can act as a thermal blanket. It’s all about soaking the soil, not the foliage. Mulching with organic materials like compost or wood chips not only warms the soil but fosters a sustainable growing environment.

Covering plants with burlap, old sheets, or clear plastic traps the day’s warmth, and sprinkling water on the soil beforehand increases this effect. Make sure to uncover them once the temperature climbs above freezing to avoid condensation on the leaves.

For your smaller plants, consider recycled milk or soda bottles as a protective ‘hot cap’. By staying alert, understanding your local weather, and being ready with these affordable strategies, you’ll be well-equipped to safeguard your garden from the harsh effects of frost. So, don’t let the cold weather deter you. With these tips, you can ensure your plants not only survive but thrive, even in the chilliest conditions.

Curb Wise