Freeze and Thaw Cycles Harm Plants

Many people do not mind rain in winter, as they look forward to spring.  The problem is that the freeze and thaw cycles that go with the rain can be very destructive to plants in your gardens and containers as well as to the containers themselves. 

I leave many container plants out on my back deck for a few reasons.

  • I love the look of plants blowing in the wind, especially the ornamental grasses.
  • Most of the containers are too large (heavy) to move inside
  • I have lots of them so would need a good chunk of time to move them.
  • For some reason time always gets away from me in the fall, so the snow arrives before I get around to moving the planters.

Whatever the reason you have left your planters outside for the winter, you can ensure they survive.  When it rains a lot (as it has been here for the past few days) or a thaw melts snow on top of the pots, be sure to dump out the excess water before it freezes again. If you cannot dump out the excess water, bail it out.   If you do not remove it, the excess water will freeze and your pots will crack.  I guarantee this will happen if the containers do not have drainage holes in the bottom.  If they do have drainage holes the pots may still crack when excessive rain turns to ice.  This happens often here in Ottawa.  One day it is raining and almost balmy, the next freezing cold.

Another trick to protect your garden plants over the winter is to ensure the plants stay snow-covered.  Snow acts as an insulator, protecting plants from freeze and thaw cycles.  I always shovel snow onto my roses growing beside my garage at my front door.  This spot is sunny and warmer than the rest of my gardens because the brick wall retains the heat absorbed from the sun.  This extra heat means the snow melts faster there, so I have to keep shoveling more on.  If you do this, be sure to use snow that does not have salt (from your sidewalk or driveway) in it.

Is it raining where you live?  If it is, make sure the rainwater does not collect on your planters if freezing temperatures are coming next.  Freeze and thaw cycles are brutal on your plants in containers and gardens.

Please visit my garden website for more garden and plant tips

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