Frost protection for your garden: What you need to know

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Temperatures are dropping and we need to start focusing on protecting our plants and trees during the nighttime lows in the 30s and below.

It is important to protect frost-sensitive plants like lantanas, bougainvillea, natal plum, citrus trees, cape honeysuckle, myoporum, any variety of ficus trees, and any tropical-type plant. For any others that you are unsure of, it is better to be safe and protect those, as well, now rather than later.

When preparing for frost protection, it is important that you stop pruning your plants and trees until at least late February or until the overnight temperatures consistently stay above 32 degrees. The top layers of foliage act as insulation for the underlying layers, protecting them from extreme temperatures. It is important that you do not prune your plants any more, even if they have sustained frost damage.

If you forget to cover them, most plants can survive a few nights of frosty temperatures. But the quicker you act, the better off they'll be.

Some steps to take to prepare for the colder nights is watering later in the evening -- between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. This actually helps release heat as the water evaporates and helps protect the plants.

Once you have that established it is time, look at different items you can use to cover your plants: newspaper, sheets, blankets, cardboard boxes, paper bags, burlap, frost cloth (found at local nurseries or home and garden centers) and Christmas lights (large lights work the best).  These are all great tools to use and it's not necessary to use all of them with the vast variety available. Avoid using plastic.

There is no right or wrong way to cover your plants as long as they are protected completely, like wrapping yourself in a blanket. When using any of the above mentioned items, you want to remove them during the day to allow for proper air flow. This gives your plants a break and the chance to get some sunlight.

It is also important to mention that when covering your plants, make sure they get completely covered to the ground to help capture that heat and hold it in. Keep an anchor nearby just in case it gets windy.

If any of your plants or trees sustain any frost damage, do not to trim them back until after the frost season or the temperatures have stayed about 32 degrees at night.

Also, find where your ASV and make sure to cover it at night with some sheets to avoid any costly repairs if the pipe were to freeze and break. It is also good to run your pool pumps to have the water continuously moving in the pipes to help prevent any damage there, as well.

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