If you didn’t grow up in Florida, there’s a chance you moved here specifically because of the mild winters we routinely enjoy. And if you were born here, that’s probably one of the reasons you chose to stay.
But there are the occasional cold snaps throughout even our mildest winters, including some overnight frosts and even a rare deep freeze. In fact, while the average low temperature overnight in January in Pensacola is a plant-friendly 44.8° Fahrenheit, we’ve seen temps well below freezing over the years too. And that’s not friendly to plants or people.
As a homeowner, it’s important to prepare your lawn, shrubs and bushes to best survive whatever Mother Nature has in store over the next few months.
Before the first frost or freeze:
- Focus on proper nutrition - a healthy lawn or plant that’s been appropriately fertilized throughout the year is in the best position to withstand even a brutal few nights of freezing temperatures. While it’s a little late in the year to begin this for your lawn, you can feel good about the time you spent caring for it earlier in the year if it’s still healthy now.
- Mulch is an excellent insulator - Using mulch liberally around flowers, shrubs, and bushes is an excellent way to insulate and protect the vulnerable root systems during cold weather. If you haven’t refreshed the mulch layer around your landscaping elements, now’s the time to do so.
- Let the plants acclimate to the cold - Of course, we can’t control when the first freeze happens, but the weather has been kind to us this year: while we’ve seen overnight lows drop from the low 60’s to the high 30’s since November, we still haven’t hit a freeze yet this year. And that’s great, because it means the lawn and other plants have been able to slowly acclimate to the lower temperatures, putting them in a much better position to handle cold snaps in January and February.
When you know a frost or freeze is coming:
- Cover vulnerable shrubs and bushes - This particularly helps under frost conditions. The best way to do it is to set up wooden or metal stakes around the plants at a height that will keep the sheet, blanket, or tarp you use from touching the leaves. Make sure coverings touch the ground all the way around a plant to retain as much heat as possible. Take coverings off during the day so the plants receive enough sunlight and ventilation.
- Water plants in the hours before a freeze - While it may seem counter intuitive, watering the grass or other plants during the day before an overnight freeze can help protect the plants since the water in the soil helps absorb heat during daylight hours that is then radiated during the night, keeping the plant warmer than it would be dry.
- If possible, set up a misting system - “Misting” plants with water throughout a period when the air temperature is below freezing can help keep the plant surfaces at or above 32°, protecting it from freezing damage. Of course, this method needs to be properly timed and monitored to prevent the water from getting too cold and potentially causing more harm than good.
After damage has been done:
While you can do your best to prepare your lawn and plants to survive the occasional cold snap, there’s no way to completely prevent damage from freezing temperatures, especially if they last for an extended period. Fortunately, this is very rare in the Pensacola area.
If the freeze occurs late enough in the year, your lawn should already be dormant, which is the best state you can hope for to survive a freeze. Even still, it may discolor even more or become very brittle after the freeze.
- Don’t hurt it more - Try to reduce or eliminate any sort of stress on the lawn such as heavy foot traffic, pet use, or mowing while it’s in this condition.
- Feed it well as soon as possible - Begin adding pre-emergent herbicides and pesticides in late February along with slow-acting fertilizer to help protect and strengthen the plants early on as the weather starts to warm up.
- Don’t prune too aggressively - While you’ll likely want to prune the dead or dying portions of any plant that’s been damaged by frost or a freeze, be very careful not to prune into the still-living plant tissue since doing so will encourage early budding, making the plant even more susceptible to possible late freezes. You may prune more liberally in and after March when freezing temps are nearly impossible.
For help prioritizing your Pensacola lawn care for coming cold snaps, or if you’d like pros to take care of all this for you, contact Lawn Master today, and we’ll be delighted to assist.