Frost & Cold Protection
Frosts are a fact of life in Central Florida. The average lowest minimum temperature for Zone 9a is 20 to 24.9 degrees and 25 to 29.9 degrees for Zone 9b. Plant City, which borders Zones 9a and 9b, experiences an average of four or five days of frost each year. So if you ignore reality, fill your garden with tropical plants and take no precautions against the Winter cold, you will eventually be very sorry.
To prepare your garden for frosts, you need to consider at least five factors:
And when the cold has past, do not forget the fifth and final rule:
Life is full of pain - get used to it. Despite your best efforts, you will likely lose something in a freeze or frost. If you are passionate about your garden, the loss will hurt. Do not respond by immediately going through the garden cutting off all the dead stems and leaves in an attempt to make the loss disappear. Give the garden a chance to recover and reveal the true extent of the damage. Also, if you prune too early (before late February), you may force new growth that may be killed off yet again in another frost. Practice patience. You will likely be rewarded with amazing regrowth.
To give you an idea of the steps you can take before a frost, I recorded my experiences with a hard freeze in early 2008.
Some helpful sites with information on cold protection:
- Cold Protection of Ornamental Plants (University of Florida IFAS Extension) A great place to start for the Florida gardener.
- Dealing with Frost Damage Another great resource from the IFAS Extension
- Frost/Freeze Protection for Horticultural Crops An excellent scientific discussion of frosts and freezes from NC State University.