Protecting plants through (potentially) frosty temperatures

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After starting off the month of April with highs in the 70s and 80s, it might seem like a cruel joke that frost is in the forecast this week.

Welcome to April in Michiana.

Overnight and morning temperatures will consistently fall into the 30s for the next week across southern Michigan and northern Indiana. The best chance for at least patchy frost will be Friday morning and the middle of next week.

While low temperatures are very important for a frost forecast, the wind speed and cloud cover play big roles in whether Michiana stays frost-free or not.

Flowers and canopy leaves can be damaged by temperatures in the lower to middle 30s. 

Our average last freeze in South Bend is May 1, but many experts suggest holding off major planting until Mother's Day.

However, if you have flowers or other plants outside or in the ground already, you can take some simple steps to give them another layer of protection against the chilly temperatures.

If you've been putting your potted plants outside to soak up the spring sunshine, bring them inside for the next week or so. For plants already in the soil, the best protection you can give them is well-watered soil. The water will help insolate the plant more than dry ground and radiates heat upward when temperatures drop below 36 degrees.

You can also cover sensitive plants with a blanket, sheet or drop cloth. Make sure the fabric doesn't touch the plant itself, so use several stakes to create a sort-of tent. Laying down a layer of mulch also can create a good shield from the cold. 

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