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28 Ways to Protect Your Garden From Extreme Weather Conditions

Guard your plants against frost, high winds, heat, or drought.

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Protect from frost:

Alternate freezing and thawing harms plants just as much as the cold itself. Woody stems may split, and roots can heave out of the soil in a cycle of frost and defrost. The best defense for hardy plants is mulch. After cold weather arrives, spread 3 inches of shredded bark, leaves, or straw to help the soil maintain a constant temperature. Cover with netting, chicken wire, or tree branches to protect against wind.

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Protect from frost:

When a light frost threatens your small plants, grab a bunch of plastic produce bags. Slip a bag over each plant and anchor the edges with small rocks. You can also use upside-down flowerpots or cardboard boxes. These covers will deprive plants of light, which does no harm for short periods of less than three days.

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Protect from frost:

Place an old blanket over the plants before nightfall to trap soil heat and protect against light to moderate frosts. A thick quilt or comforter provides even more protection.

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Protect from frost:

When the first frost is on the way, pull up your tomato plants, shake off the dirt, and hang them upside down from your garage rafters. The fruits will continue to ripen for several weeks.

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Protect from frost

Protect wall-trained vines, shrubs, and trees with a removable shade. Attach a sheet of canvas large enough to cover the plants completely to a piece of wood mounted at the top of the wall. Let the cloth hang down over the plants in very cold weather. Pull up the shade when it’s warm and lower it in late afternoon to conserve heat for the night ahead.

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Protect from frost:

It may seem paradoxical, but let a sprinkler play over tender plants all night when a sudden freeze is predicted. Water gives off heat as it turns to ice, and will keep the plants warmer than the air. This trick is often used to keep the blossoms on fruit trees from being ruined by late freezes.

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Protect from frost:

Keep beds moist and free of weeds to head off frost damage in spring and fall. Soak beds in the daytime if frost is expected at night. This treatment helps heat rise from the soil on chilly nights and warm the plants. Here’s how to deal with weeds under shrubs and trees.

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Protect from frost:

Wrap marginally hardy shrubs in insulated burlap screens. First, loosely stack oak leaves or straw around the plant (don’t use thin maple or dogwood leaves because they’ll become soggy and pack down). Then corral the insulation in a length of burlap supported by four corner stakes and tie it with cord. Leave the top open for air circulation.

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Protect from frost:

Pile mounds of soil 10 to 12 inches high around the bases of rosebushes to protect the roots, graft union, and lowest buds from cold injury. Remove the soil in early spring, but wait to prune until the tiny emerging buds indicate the extent of any injury. Here are tips for growing beautiful roses.

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Protect from wind:

Protect your young plants by hammering a few stakes around each plant and wrapping a barrier of burlap around the stakes. Support tall specimens with stakes or cages.

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Protect from wind:

To protect a small garden from wind damage, make a windbreak with plastic screening. Install stakes or posts in the windward side of the garden and tie or staple the screening to them. This can reduce the force of the wind by as much as 60 percent.

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Protect from wind:

When landscaping a new yard, keep as many of the existing trees you can for wind protection, especially those more than 30 feet from the house. If you decide to replace old trees with new ones, do it gradually over a period of several years. The existing trees will help buffer winds that might otherwise damage the new ones you plant. Here are secrets landscapers won’t tell you for free.

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Protect from wind:

To protect plants in a cold climate, plant trees and shrubs in two or more layers. To create a natural look, plant in a slightly curved row instead of a straight line. Space tall, dense evergreens such as Douglas fir or spruce as a background and fill in the front with flowers and shrubs. This living screen will protect downwind gardens from drying out.

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Protect from wind:

To minimize wind damage, cover the trunks of newly planted trees with commercial tree wrap or strips of burlap. You can remove the wrapping after the trees are established, usually within a year.

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Protect from wind:

In areas where high winds are common, prune deciduous trees so that strong winds can pass through their branches without doing damage. Remove small interior branches to allow space for the wind.

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Protect from heat:

Plant tall sun-worshipping plants like corn, sunflowers, or cosmos south of those that need a little shade each day, such as lettuce, spinach, and beets. These colorful flowers grow best in shade.

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Protect from heat:

To create shade for plants that are heat and drought sensitive, construct a simple framework of lumber over the planting bed. Cover the structure with wood slats, salvaged window screens, or even a piece of burlap.

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Protect from heat:

Choose a heat-tolerant butterhead lettuce so that you can grow it all season. Plant a succession of seedlings at two- to three-week intervals for a good supply.

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Protect from heat:

Paint their trunks up to the lower branches with white latex paint, which will reflect the sun’s rays. Wrapping their trunks with burlap or crepe kraft paper will also help young trees escape the effects of heat.

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Protect from heat:

Organic mulches like pine bark, wood chips, or shredded newspaper keep soil cool when spread 2 to 3 inches deep. Plastic mulches, unless covered with organic material, will merely make soil hotter. Any reflective materials, such as shiny pebbles, may contribute to foliage burn in hot or desert climates.

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Protect from drought:

Xeroscaping means using only trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and other plants that are well adapted to the natural cycles of rainfall in your area. Don’t worry that a xeroscaped yard will appear drab and dry. If well designed, a naturally drought-resistant landscape can be full of color from flowers, foliage, and bark.

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Protect from drought:

Plants develop shallow root systems and become more vulnerable to drought if you water them frequently. Instead, water less often—but slowly and deeply. This encourages deep root growth, which makes plants better able to search out scant moisture in the soil.

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Protect from drought:

Insulate with mulch before hot weather strikes. This insulation makes plant roots less vulnerable to damage from surface heat and dryness. On a hot day, a 3-inch layer of shredded leaves will keep the soil as much as 18˚ F cooler than any nearby beds that remain unprotected.

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Protect from drought:

To drought-proof your garden, use compost as a soil amendment and as mulch to help the soil retain moisture. This will ensure that your garden plants receive maximum benefit from watering and whatever precipitation you get. Spread a layer of compost about 2 inches deep over beds and dig it 1 to 1.5 feet into the soil before planting; add another layer as mulch afterward. Here’s how to get started with composting at home.

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Protect from drought:

When watering is restricted by law, use “gray water” from the kitchen sink, bathtub, or even your washing machine to irrigate your plants. Many ornamentals in particular thrive on the phosphates in detergents. The soap also acts as an insecticide. Just be sure that the detergent you use doesn’t contain bleach, boron, or other toxic substances. Pour the soapy water gently over the plants, applying it to each spot no more than once a week. Alternate the applications with fresh water so that soaps won’t build up in the soil. No-no’s for gray water include vegetables and other edible plants, ferns and similar shadeloving plants, and acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and violets.

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Protect from drought:

Dormancy is grass’s natural defense against drought. Once the grass goes dormant—usually in one to two weeks—give it only 1/2 inch of water every two weeks. The roots and buds will stay alive without resuming growth.

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Protect from drought:

Clover is more drought resistant than most turf grasses, and will stay green through the driest days of summer. Another reason to grow it: Because it absorbs nitrogen directly from the atmosphere, it also works as a fertilizer, amending soil that may later be bedded with plants.

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Protect from drought:

Annuals that withstand dry conditions include gerbera daisies, sunflowers, portulacas, marigolds, and zinnias. Drought-tolerant perennials to consider include blackeyed Susans, penstemons, coreopsis, evening primroses, and yarrow.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest