How to protect your plants from a frost

The surge of warm weather over the last few months has led many to begin planting season early. But cold overnight temperatures, frosts and freeze warnings can leave vegetation damaged or destroyed.

If you've already begun planting, how can you protect your flowers and plants from being damaged from a frost?

Kristy Ostrander, of Ostrander Flowers and Greenhouses, said the main damage from frosts happen when the water gets into the leaves' cells and freezes them.

"The best thing you can do if you think you've had a frost, first thing in the morning, before the sun shines on them, go out and water them," she said. "If you can get water on them before the sun shines on them that helps get that frozen water back out of the cells and the leaves and the damage won't be as severe.'

If bringing plants indoors is not an option, covering them can also be beneficial. Ostrander recommends burlap, since some plastics attract moisture and can contribute to freezing.

You can also trim off the frozen or damaged parts of the plants, but it's hard to tell if that will hurt or help more.

"Some things it's best not to trim it off too soon because if there is a possibility of another frost, the damaged parts can help protect it from more frost," Ostrander said. "But if you think it's a plant that might rot away or cause more stress or damage to the plant, go ahead and prune that off or trim the bad leaves."

Surrounding a plant with fertilizer can also keep away the moisture.

And of course, it all depends on the type of plant or flower. Lower-lying plants, cabbage and perennials are more cold tolerant, as are some pansies and violas. Petunias can survive until freezing level, but tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes and geraniums cannot withstand cold weather and likely will need to be replaced.