Ask Burton: Q: I, like almost everybody, had to replace some plants after the devastating winter storm this February. How can I protect them if we have that level of freezing weather again this time?

A: I’m happy to say, we almost never get as cold as we did this past winter. It’s possible to have a freeze on that scale this winter, but it’s unlikely! The average first freeze date in our area is close to Thanksgiving. But we can have a perfectly normal winter, with an average winter storm, and still need to protect sensitive plants.

In the normal run-up to our first strong cold snap of the year, we’ll recommend you thoroughly water your plants the day before the freeze arrives, then detach your water hoses from outdoor spigots and insulate them. Trim back tender perennials and mulch them over, and pull container plants inside the garage or into the home. Cover larger tender plants installed in ground or in containers which are too large to move with frost cloth to give those plants the protection they need. Tie or secure the frost cloth so that the wind won’t shred it.

Frost cloth is a very thin material, but the protection it provides is substantial, and superior to using burlap, old bedsheets, or similar covers. Do not protect outdoor plants with plastic, as this is very likely to injure them. Once the cold snap is over, simply fold up the material neatly to store it. Frost cloth is reusable.

If you do not have enough frost cloth, it’s probably a good idea to pick it up earlier than usual. The plastic used to make weed barriers and frost cloth has been in short supply this year. But for now, at least, we have plenty!