As any gardener knows all too well, frost can be a deadly adversary and often arrives most unexpectedly. Even a small cold front arriving in late summer or early fall, combined with cloudless skies and little wind can wreak havoc quickly. Mother Nature, to say the least, is unpredictable, so it is up to you to be prepared for what she throws at you.
For any freshly planted greenery, a mound of mulch around the base of the plant will help to retain heat and moisture, making your plants that much more able to survive a frost, if not too heavy or for an extended period of time. If you have warning, watering the mulch during the day will help by enabling additional moisture to be released throughout the night, keeping the air directly around your plants somewhat warmer, though the best option is to cover your new plants, in addition to the mulch. Mulch is critical to winter survival, especially if there is any chance of an unexpectedly cold and wet winter, so a good rule is to apply mulch around the base of all of your plants in the fall, even if you did so in the spring.
Plant covers are always the safest option for insuring your plants' survival during extended periods of frost or when the temperatures plummet below freezing. Designed specifically for the express purpose of protecting shrubs, bushes, vegetable and flower gardens from being ravaged by the effects of frost and freezing temperatures, they are reusable, easy to install and easily stored for use year after year. Manufactured of lightweight, porous fabric, they allow essential, life-giving air flow around your plants, unlike plastic sheeting or bed sheets.
Plant protector bags do not require additional staking and have a drawstring at the bottom to keep them in place, enabling you to install them quickly and easily. Row covers, on the other hand, are designed to protect tender new leaves, blossoms and young fruit and vegetables in your fall garden. You can even control ventilation by closing off the ends of the tunnels at night and reopening them in the morning. Row covers allow light and air free access while providing protection and you can leave them in place for extended periods of time.
For larger areas you may want to consider a plant and seed blanket or natural burlap, which can also double as a shade cloth during summer heat waves. Many people use one of these options for freshly planted bedding annuals that provide such beautiful fall color, or for those beds of late blooming perennials or chrysanthemums whose blooms you want to enjoy a bit longer.
As always, that Girl Scout motto, Be Prepared will insure that you and your plants survive the early frosts and deep freezes that can devastate your landscaping or gardens. Take stock and stock up on those protective plant covers that will best suit your needs, so that when the weather channel warns of impending frost or freezing temperatures, you can simply go out to your shed or garage and grab what you need, rather than running around town or raiding your linen closet to find something, anything to cover your plants with. That is no fun at all!