How To Protect Plants From Frost

While there aren’t as many days in Phoenix Valley that get frost per year, it does happen.  If your plants are damaged by frost it can seriously harm or kill them.  This means you won’t have the fresh fruit or vegetables you expect from your garden.  Learn how to protect plants from frost in the Phoenix Valley.

Protecting Plants From Frost

In the Phoenix Valley the average first day of frost varies from Nov 21st in Buckeye to around December 12th in central Phoenix.  End of frost risk days also vary throughout the valley from around the 3rd of April in Mesa and 7th of February in central Phoenix.  The difference in climate is due to a number of factors such as population density, pavement, concrete, and elevation.

While the average lows hover around in the 40’s during the colder parts of the year, serious gardeners will want to prepare for the occasional winter frost.   To do so you need to understand cold weather, how plants react to cold, the transfer of heat, how to avoid frost damage, frost damage symptoms, and how to treat plants that have been damaged by frost.

Cold Weather

Understanding how cold weather, wind, humidity, and heat loss is important to preventing frost in your garden.  Knowing when to take action and the factors that will affect the risk for frost will help you protect your hard work and investment.

  • During the day the sun warms soil and then that heat is radiated into the cool atmosphere at might.
  • The coldest part of virtually every day is just before daybreak
  • Cloudy nights insulate and reflect that heat back down.
  • The greatest risk for frost is on calm clear nights. This is because there is no wind to mix warmer air and no clouds to reflect heat back down.
  • Humidity dictates how slowly the temperature can change. The drier the air the faster the temperature can swing low at night.  This is obviously a major factor for the Phoenix Valley with our arid climate.
  • By comparing the temperatures reported on the news verses temperature readings you collect in your garden you can predict potential frost nights. If the news is consistently 5 degrees higher, you know you should expect frost event when the news says it will be 37°F.
  • Cold air always flows downward through canyons and even around your landscape. That means that if you have a slope or low point in your garden this section is at greater risk.
  • While some winds might help bring warmer air cold north winds during the winter can compound the heat loss in your garden.

How Plants React To Cold

The way that plants react to cold will vary with a few different factors.  Plants of different kinds, age, stage of growth, water content, and general health will react differently.  The plants that are dehydrated, actively growing, flowering, or are young will be more vulnerable to frost. While short days and colder weather typically put most plants in a state of dormancy, it is not always the case in Phoenix as we do have some unseasonably warm days.  This increases the need to be vigilant in preventing frost if your plants are actively growing during frost risk days of winter.

How To Protect Your Plants From Frost

The first thing you can do is choose plants for your garden which are naturally frost tolerant.  A second option is to place the more frost sensitive plants or trees on the southern and western sides of your garden where they typically get the most sunlight and warmth.  Also placing these plants near patios, rocks, or block walls will help keep them warm as these structures collect and radiate heat.

For plants which are frost tolerant it is best to put them in the lower and colder areas of your landscape to keep them dormant as long as possible. This helps avoid flowering too early and potential damage to fruit.

Frost Cloth & Covering Plants

You can help keep plants warm and avoid frost by using frost cloth or paper, never use plastic to cover your plants.   Frost cloth can be purchased from your local nursery, or you can use blankets and sheets for the coldest nights.  Frost cloth typically protects your plants down to about 30°F, while the most effective are rated for 20°F.

Make sure you completely cover the plant over the top and so the cloth or blanket reaches the ground.  Trap the warm air effectively and it will protect your plant.  Property applied cloths will trap the humidity and heat to insulate your plant.  Let the cloth or sheet naturally drape straight down to the soil, never draw it in and tie it around the trunk or base.

Note on sheets and blankets – If you’ve used sheets or blankets for frost protection you must remove them each morning when the temperature reaches 50°F.  In southern Arizona it is harmful to plants to keep them covered with blankets or sheets for extended periods of time. While it is unlikely that the temperature inside the blanket cover will not “cook” your plant it may be enough to wake it from winter dormancy.

Proper Care Helps Avoid Frost

While no level of care will make your plants invulnerable to frost proper care for them will make them more resistant and resilient. It’s important to avoid dehydrated plants by keeping them well watered.  Plants are damaged when ice crystals form on leaves surfaces.  The plant is dehydrated and damages itself trying to absorb ice crystals.

It’s also important to keep a careful eye on the distribution of water, keep it even throughout your garden.  Your soil will also retain more heat if it is dry, loose, and is covered with vegetation or mulch.  You can invest in frost cloth and covers to help avoid the worst of the frost, but don’t over protect.  Plants which are exposed to some colder temperatures will be more resilient to cold weather.

East Phoenix Valley Nurseries

For the best stock in trees and plants for your garden and landscape trust A&P Nursery.  We grow our stock locally right here in the east valley, so you know it is already ready to survive in our climate.  We can help you choose frost resistant plants, plant out your placement, and provide frost cloths for the coldest parts of the year.

Call or visit one of our 4 locations today

Best Shade Trees For Phoenix

If you’re searching for the “best shade trees for Phoenix” you’re probably choosing trees to have planted at your home or office.  Shade is great for lazy afternoons in the yard, but can also provide additional benefits.  Read about which shade trees are best for your Phoenix Valley home or office.

According to what the National Forest Service has said, “you can save on energy by having trees planted around your home, and there are several other benefits from this as well.”

Best Shade Trees Species

The National Forest Service has also expressed that, “having two trees that are each 25 ft. in height and planted on the west side of the home, and another tree that is 25 ft. in height planted on the east side of the home can save as much as 25% of A/C costs when you are living on the southwest side.” Naturally, having other mature trees around a home will also give it more curb appeal.

Velvet Mesquite Tree PhoenixChilean and/or velvet mesquite

The two of these mesquites grow rather quickly, however, the Chilean will grow to be around 30 ft. in height, but the velvet is an Arizona native, growing to only around 25 ft. in height, having a younger root system.

Palo Verde Tree PhoenixPalo verdes

The state tree of Arizona is the ‘palo verdes’, with two different species being native to the state of Arizona, which are, foothill, and the blue palo verdes. These are known for their photosynthesis, which comes from the chlorophyll from their green bark that gives them their characteristics. They both grow rapidly, reaching around 30 ft. in height. However, the blue palo verdes is capable of reaching 40 ft. in height. In the spring, both will have beautiful yellow blooms.

Palo Brea Tree PhoenixPalo brea

This type of tree is considered a hybrid version of a palo verdes, and it is popular due to how easy it is to prune into a canopy. This type also has less risks of being damaged by big wind storms.

Afghan Pine Tree PhoenixAfghan and Aleppo pine

With the long growing season Arizona has, trees such as the Afghanistan and the Syria can grow rapidly, as they are native to Arizona and will reach about 50 ft. in height. Which make them good to use for filling your yard space.

Pink Dawn Chitalpa Tree PhoenixChitalpa Tree & Desert willow

When looking for a tree that is going to add color to your landscape, take into consideration the desert willow. This tree will reach 25 ft. in height. They can have pink, white, or even purple trumpet-shaped flowers blooming between the spring and fall.

Phoenix Valley Shade Tree Nursery

If you are looking for great shade trees for your Phoenix Valley home or office, A&P Nursery is your source for the best stock.  We grow our trees right here in the Phoenix Valley, so you know the trees are already used to our heat.  Get a shade tree for your landscape, increase its value, appearance, and even provide some shade for your property.  Stop by and browse the best shade trees for the Phoenix Valley. We have 4 locations in the East Phoenix Valley.

Call or visit one of our 4 locations today

Growing The Ocotillo In Arizona

The ocotillo is one of the most beautiful and otherworldly plants seen in Arizona landscapes.  With long thin columns and bright red or orange blooms they add a real punch to the visual appearance of your landscape. While many think of it as a succulent it is technically a woody shrub, and must be cared for differently than succulents.

Mature ocotillo are grown in the desert and then transferred to containers for sale at nursery locations.  This process does leave the plant with a challenged root system so proper care is critical to successfully growing your ocotillo.

Selecting Ocotillo For Your Arizona Landscape

Ocotillo sold at local Arizona nurseries typically sell them as bare-root specimen.  The vertical canes will be tied together and they will be standing up against a wall or stacked for you to view them.  When there is space some nurseries will plant the ocotillo in beds of sand.  It is important to inspect the ocotillo to get the best specimen.

Check The Roots

The root system is a major factor in choosing which ocotillo to purchase.  The bigger the root system, the better chance you have of successfully planting your new ocotillo.  Not only should you pay attention to the size of the root system, but you should watch out for broken or damaged roots.

Buy Fresh Stock

A key of getting the best stock is to find out which are the freshest ocotillo.  While big box nurseries many times have their stock shipped in from out of state, Arizona enjoys having local nurseries which grow ocotillo locally in the Phoenix Valley.  These local nurseries only harvest ocotillo when needed to replenish stock at locations, allowing for the freshest plants anywhere.

Choosing Between Great Stock

If everything is equal, all of great roots, and they are all fresh, how do you choose?  Lift the plants to find the heaviest ocotillo possible.  The weight is an indication of how much water is in the plant and the more water you have, the better chance you have.  You may be able to request an ocotillo and specific the largest root system possible.

How To Plant The Ocotillo

With you ocotillo chosen and transported to your home or office it’s time to get it in the ground. Follow these steps to get it done right and have the best chance of it growing healthy. Make sure you leave the canes (vertical columns) tied up so handling is easier.

Remove Broken Roots

No matter how carefully the ocotillo is removed from the soil it was grown in, there will be some damaged roots.  It is important to prune the damaged sections off.  But it is equally important to leave as much as possible, so don’t get carried away like Edward Shearhands.

Condition The Roots

Before planting in the soil it is a good idea to revitalize the roots with root hormone and to let the roots soak.  This “wakes” the roots up and gets the plant ready for spreading out into the soil in your landscape.  The success of your plant depends on the size, condition, and how quickly your root system takes hold its new habitat.

Dig The Hole & Amend Soil

The hole you dig for your ocotillo should be a foot wider and deeper than the roots of the ocotillo.  The soil you dig out of the ground should be amended with sand if you don’t already have a well draining soil.  The ocotillo is accustomed to living in arid environments and watering in urban or suburban locations provide more water than they would ever experience in nature.  This makes well draining soil critical to avoiding root rot. The sand content of your soil should be at about 30%.

Planting It In The Hole

Before setting your ocotillo into its new home, you should place some of your backfill soil in the bottom of your hole to begin.  Then set the ocotillo so that the base of the plant is level with the rest of the ground.  Backfill the rest of the soil around the plant and tamp it down around the roots.  Be exceedingly careful not to damage the roots while planting your ocotillo. Create a moat around the edge of the hole to help with new watering.

Untie & Check For Position

Once your ocotillo is standing on its own it is time to untie the canes and check to make sure it is standing up straight. It should look upright and not lean to either side.  If it does gentle correct the lean and have a friend tamp the soil as you do this to help secure it.

How To Water Newly Planted Ocotillo

As will all plants the ocotillo has need for water, and should be done immediately after planting.  As the ocotillo is a shrub it will need deep watering along with spraying or misting the canes.  The cane are believed to naturally absorb surface water from rainstorms, so spraying them adds moisture directly to the plant.

Year Round Watering For New Ocotillo

The ocotillo should be watered about once a month in cooler months.  For the hot months the ocotillo should be watered about once a week for the first year or two.  It’s important to provide the water but it is also important to have well draining soil and not overdo it.  Excessive or constant water will lead to root rot, and ultimately kill your ocotillo.  This makes drip systems less than ideal as they are designed to provide constant watering.

Established Ocotillo Watering

The ocotillo, once fully established, will not need supplemental watering unless it is an excessively hot and dry summer.  While it may bloom in its first year, this is not a sign that it is established and does not need watering. They also leaf out follow rain storms, which is a great sign, but does not mean it is established.  It is important to allow 2 years for it to establish itself before ceasing watering.  For the largest plants you should do 3 years of supplemental watering.

Buy Ocotillo In Arizona

If you’re looking for the best place to buy ocotillo in Arizona, A&P Nursery is your source for the best specimen.  We grow our stock locally in the Phoenix Valley, so you’re getting the freshest plants who are already accustom to growing in the area.  We have all the tools and fertilizers you need to get started and even offer planting services.  Stop by one of our 4 locations to view our stock of ocotillo and choose your’s today!

Call or visit one of our 4 locations today