Frost & Freeze Protection

With a freeze warning in effect tonight and possible frost again tomorrow. There are a few things you can do today to help prevent damage to your garden. Temperatures tonight will drop to around 28°-32° for 1-3 hours. Tomorrow night they will drop into the low mid-30s for a few hours. Tonight is the bigger threat, but both could damage tender plants. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent damage.

  1. If you can bring them inside the garage or house or even onto the porch. Anything closer to the house will help. Beds and gardens farther from the house and trees will get the coldest. An open sky is bad this allows from the maximum radiational cooling so protect those plants first. Basically, the more sky that plant can see the colder it will get at night.
  2. Today when the sun is high in the sky water your plants heavily. This water will help absorb heat today and trap it for tonight. This will work much better than you think. Not only will the ground absorb heat the plants will as they suck up the water.
  3. You can heavily mulch your beds with leaves, straw or mulch to help protect the plant. The key here is to do this during the heating of the day you want to trap as much heat from the sun in the ground, mulch and plant during the day, so that has it for tonight.
  4. Then of course, once the sun goes down cover your plants. The best materials are fabrics and not plastics. If you cover them soon after sunset, you will trap the maximum amount of heat for tonight. Be sure though to uncover them as soon as the temperature warms in the morning or the sun gets higher in the sky.Leaving them covered with the sun up can cause damage as well. Never use plastic if at all possible this will cause damage.

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When all else fails…WATER!

Last-ditch efforts are turning the sprinklers on. It sounds weird, but watering during a freeze will work for short periods of time and down to only certain temperatures but it works. It has nothing to do with a layer of ice insulating the plant. Water contains heat which when removed by the air causes it to freeze into ice. That heat removed has to go somewhere, and this “latent heat” release will go into your plants and the surrounding air saving them from freeze damage. This tiny bit of latent heat will work down to temperatures around 27°-28° but only for a few hours. Those long hard freezes might be a lost cause.