Gardening: Keeping Plants Warm During Cold Season

Cary, NC – After record-breaking heat this Summer, we are suddenly in cool October weather that is only getting colder. If you feel the chill, then so do your outdoor plants. Here are some tips on how to make sure you have a garden that fairs well during the cold Autumn weather.

Keeping Plants Warm

If you are just starting planting, there is a lot you can do and consider when it comes to cold weather. But if your plants are already in the earth, you still have many options.

One key is to make sure you have compost and mulch on top of your garden. North Carolina Autumns and Winters are very dry and bare soil will dry out quickly. Mulch will store up moisture so any watering you do, or any rainfall that comes, can keep your plant supplied with water for longer.

This is a good tip for dry Summer weather too, but there is an added benefit when it gets cold out. The mulch will act as insulation, storing up heat during the day and keeping it after the sun has set and temperatures plummet. Also, as organic material in your mulch decomposes, that releases heat as well.


An example of a cold frame

Cold Frames

If you’re a gardener, you know all about greenhouses. However, they are not exactly cheap and they may not be appropriate for your garden year long. Instead, you can construct a cold frame for your garden.

A cold frame is designed to protect your plants from cold weather and wind and you can even build it to be temporary.

Build four thick walls around your garden, it does not matter with what. Prioritize how easily you can set it up and break it down without damaging your plants. Then, over top, have some sort of transparent material, such as a window or plastic sheeting. This will trap heat while keeping cold air out.

If you want to build a cold frame, there are a few things to consider. For one, you will need to lift your covering and air out the cold frame periodically. Also, keep an eye on the temperatures in there because on an unusually hot Autumn day, it can heat up fast in there. When you set up your transparent cover, make sure you have it sloped or otherwise oriented toward the sun so you can maximize heat during cold days.


Story by staff reports. Photos by Deb Nystrom and Hal Goodtree. The Gardening column is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.