It may only be early October, but frost is already threatening gardens in the Quad Cities. With lows in the 30s for tonight and Monday, there’s a possible chance of frost over the next couple of nights. Temperatures can vary widely during the fall. The Quad Cities recently saw highs in the 80s and could reach those levels again before winter kicks in. While frosts are possible in the next few days, lows later in the week will be in the 40s and 50s. What can plant fans do to protect their gardens and keep the season going a little longer?

While some cool weather crops like greens can handle a little frost, it can mean the end of the growing season for others. Annuals, vegetables and tropical plants are the most sensitive to chilly temperatures and must be protected. An easy option for tropical houseplants or containers is to bring them inside. They can stay on the porch, in a heated room or in the garage for the duration. This is a good time to check them for any hibernating insects before they make their permanent move inside.

Larger crops that are still in the ground can stay there and produce for a little longer with protection. Sheets, blankets, towels, tarps, frost fabric and row cover material all offer some degree of protection when temperatures drop by keeping frost from forming on leaves. Use stakes, poles, sawhorses or patio furniture to make sure the cover doesn’t touch the plants. Leave coverings on until temperatures warm to above freezing. Cold frames and hoop tunnels offer protection that doesn’t need to be removed right away.

For more information on cold frames and other options for protecting gardens from frost, click here for more information from the horticulture experts at the Iowa State Extension Office.