Feeling Frosty: Your Spring Planting Questions Answered

April 30, 2024

Spring is finally here, and garden season is almost upon us! It can be tempting to get all your spring planting done as soon as the weather starts to feel warm, but when is the best time to actually do it? And what happens if you accidentally plant too early?

In our latest blog, we’ll answer all your questions about spring planting and frost.

When is the best time to plant in the spring?

Mother’s Day has long been considered the baseline date to start planting without the risk of frost. However, the Philadephia suburbs have recently been moved into USDA Zone 7, meaning that the average winter temperatures are slightly higher than before, and Zone 7 has different recommendations for planting. We recommend researching the last estimated frost date in your area before you decide to plant. In West Chester, the estimated last frost of 2024 is May 2nd. This can be even earlier in areas closer to the city.

What causes frost damage and what does it look like?

Frost damage occurs when ice forms within plant tissue and damages cells. Damaged plants may appear slightly wilted the next day, but the real damage often won’t show for a few days or even weeks. The affected areas will slowly turn brown and crispy, indicating that part of the plant has died. This can affect part of the plant or the plant as a whole. Frost damage can occur after only one night of frost, so it is important to watch the weather in the early part of the season to protect your plants before a frost hits. It is also important to make sure you know what kinds of temperatures each of your plants can withstand, because some plants tolerate colder weather better than others.

But what if you plant early? What if a freak frost hits?

Fortunately, a one-off frost or two isn’t automatically a death sentence for your plants- as long as you prepare accordingly. During the early part of the season, it is best to keep an eye on forecasted overnight temperatures and protect your plants in advance on colder nights. For potted plants, the best thing to do is bring the plants inside overnight and place them back outside during the day. For plants that are in the ground, covering them with a frost blanket should be enough to keep them safe. The best results will come from using a designated frost cloth, which are designed to allow airflow while retaining heat from the soil. In a pinch, you can use a household blanket, sheet, or burlap as long as it is not heavy enough to crush the plant and doesn’t have large holes or knit in it. It is also best to use a blanket large enough to touch the ground when covering the plant to trap as much heat in as possible. Just make sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants can receive sunlight!

Frost cloth 2
Frost cloth 1

Examples of frost cloths keeping our plants safe in our garden center during a potential frost night in April, 2024.

Ready to start planting?

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to make it through an early season frost, stop by the Matlack Garden Center to stock up on all the plants for your spring garden!

Got questions? Our garden center team is always available to answer questions you have about planting info, frost protection, fertilizing, and more!

Click here to shop the rest of our plants.

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