Surprise! It’ll be a frosty weekend in May for much of the US. Is your garden ready?
More than 100 record-low temperatures are forecast over the next few nights, from the Great Lakes to the Northeast and down to the Deep South, thanks to a weak polar vortex that’s spilling out frigid Arctic air.
The weather warnings have spooked novice gardeners who’ve picked up the hobby in isolation. But your garden won’t die, if you can help it.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has some tips for green thumbs of all skill levels to keep your garden safe during this surprise cold snap.
Water your garden
“Get water on the roots,” Myers advises. “That will help insulate the plant a little bit.”
Water helps soil retain heat from the sun during the day, which cushions the roots throughout the freeze.
But be careful not to water your plant more than usual. Drowning it may damage the roots and leaves.
Mulch the roots
Spreading mulch around the roots of your plants can insulate them, too, Myers says. It also prevents that insulating water from evaporating.
You don’t need to buy mulch, either – you can use grass clippings or crunchy old leaves that have fallen in your yard.
Build a tent
Like any proud plant parent, you may want to swaddle your prized shrub or flower with a blanket.
You can, but do it right: Myers suggests you fix some stakes in the ground to prop up the blankets so they don’t damage your plants.
“If you throw Grandma’s old quilt on top of a tomato plant, by morning, after that quilt is wet and frosty, it’s going to be smashing the plant anyway,” he said.
Use cloth, not plastic
A plastic tarp or cover won’t do much in the way of warmth for your plants.
“Plastic is a terrible insulator,” Myers says. “If it’s touching the leaves, it’s going to kill the leaves because the temperature’s going to go right through the plastic cloth.”
Cloth is a much better insulator than plastic, he says, though you can use plastic on top of a cloth blanket to keep rain or dew off.
Remove the cover daily
When the temperature rises above 40 degrees, you should remove the cloth cover to let your plant soak in sunlight, which will warm up the soil. This may mean you’ll need to cover and uncover your plants a few days in a row.
And as soon as the weather improves, you can remove the cover completely, Myers says.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly misspelled CNN meteorologist Chad Myers’ last name.
CNN’s Monica Garrett, Judson Jones and Dave Hennen contributed to this report.