The days are shorter and colder, and soon everything will freeze. Everything except your plants, you hope. Protecting your garden from the frost is as simple as covering and keeping it warm, but also a complex task that begins with a proactive effort:
It’s important to consider elevation, soil properties, cover, as well as the proximity of hardscape structures and other plants when planning your garden. Cold-sensitive greenery should not be planted in open areas, or in the low lying spots where cold air settles; instead, plant them near a south- or west-facing retaining wall. Fences and shrubs can serve the same purpose to absorb light and heat.
Wet soil retains heat far better than dry soil, and so regular watering during the winter months will keep your plants’ roots safe and warm.
Bed sheets, plastic sheets, drop cloths, and even blankets can be used to cover and protect your plants most vulnerable to the cold. Use a protective covering overnight or on especially frigid days, but then be sure to take it off again when temperatures rise. (Mulch, straw, or composted leaves can be used in a pinch, when a quick cold snap strikes.
Think of this as when people huddle together for warmth; the concept is the same. Provide protection from the elements, and shelter. If possible, bring container plants inside.
Some succulents thrive in cold weather, while others are more sensitive. In Fairfax and surrounding areas, where winter temperatures drop and stay below freezing, Grigg Design recommends planting succulents in pots so they can be relocated when necessary; not overwatering; and leaving damaged leaves in place to protect lower foliage.
Perhaps most important to remember is this: Plants are resilient. If at any point you see signs of frost damage, don’t overreact. Wait a while, as it’s not until the weather begins to warm again in March that plants will grow healthy and new, or succumb to the frost.