Brrrr! What Needs to be Protected from the First Frost of Fall

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When temperatures take a nosedive for the first time in fall, we’re not the only ones to notice.  Your outdoor plants-even hardy ones-can find it rather shocking too.

Of course any tender plants you want to keep, like houseplants or tender tropicals, will have to be moved indoors before the frost.  Be sure to check for any insects that might be hiding on your plants and treat with insecticidal soap or oil or Organocide (safe to use indoors, but a little smelly). See more on bringing in tropical plants here.

Bringing pots of tender annuals into the house or garage will buy you a few days more.  Cover tender annuals in the ground with a light blanket to protect them, and don’t remove too early in the morning-frosty temperatures can persist even after sunrise.

Hardy flowers like pansies and mums should have little problem adjusting to the cold, though some open flowers may droop until your plants have gotten accustomed to the lower temperatures. Cool temperatures actually intensify the colors of flowering cabbage and kale.

Still have basil in your herb garden? Basil has zero tolerance for cold temperatures. Cut it now and dry it, or make a big batch of pesto to freeze.  Perennial herbs like parsley, chives and oregano survive cold temperatures but the quality declines as it gets cold. Try preserving them for use throughout the winter.

Pick all your peppers and tomatoes-green tomatoes can be ripened to enjoy for several more weeks. Fall vegetables will be fine, and members of the cabbage family actually get sweeter after a frost.

The first frosts will kill the leaves and stems of summer bulbs like dahlia and elephant ears, but not the bulbs themselves. They can be saved to replant next spring. After a frost you can cut the stems off and dig up the bulbs. Brush off the soil and pack loosely in peat moss or layers of newspaper. Store bulbs for the winter in a cool, dry, dark location that remains above freezing.