(WHTM) – The terms frost and freeze are used a lot when it comes to plants and the growing season.

While both are bad for plants, they don’t necessarily mean the same thing.

The National Weather Service (NWS) says that a frost can form when the temperature falls below 36 degrees Fahrenheit, with it being more than likely in rural areas. Frost becomes more widespread when the temperature falls below 32 degrees. But this is also where freeze can occur.

The NWS usually issues advisories, watches, and warnings for both frost and freezes. Below are definitions the weather services use to alert the public:

Frost Advisory

A frost advisory is issued when the minimum temperature is forecast to be between 33 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit on clear and calm nights during the growing season.

Freeze Watch

A freeze watch is issued when significant and widespread freezing temperatures are expected, sometime within the next 24 to 36 hours.

Freeze Warning

This is issued when significant, widespread freezing temperatures are expected more imminently.

Both events mean bad news for your outside plants.

GardeningKnowHow.com, an online gardening resource, further defines frost as occurring when a plant is exposed to temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. These temperatures may only last for a short time, but frosts can still damage very delicate plants, such as vegetable plants.

A freeze is more impactful, and occurs when the interior temperature of the plant reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit, GardeningKnowHow noted. The frozen inside of the plant warms during the day and the cells release water and break down. This results in brown and black spots, as well as mushy areas that result in the death of annual plants.

The simplest protection you can do is cover them with an old sheet, or a light tarp.

When frost begins to occur, however, one thing is certain: Winter is on its way, which means it might be time to begin preparing your garden for next year.