Just like myself, most gardeners worry about their plants when there is threat of frosts. Frost can damage, harm and kill crops. There are some things you can do though for protecting plants from frost.
Frost often happens when the night is still and clear, when air temperature is almost freezing. When temperature is almost freezing, the plant’s surface temperature has a tendency to dip below freezing point. Under this situation ice crystals may form. This is similar to the formation of dew during warmer nights.
As temperature registers above freezing, frost may form because above the ground temperature is different. Frost may not necessarily however develop when temperature freezes.
- Black Frost. This is when frost did not form and plants get blackened with this type of frost.
- Rime Frost. This is in liquid form and due to water in the air being deposited as liquid.
- Hoarfrost. Frost comes in the form ice crystal as a result of the deposit of water in the air.
.Frost can either rupture cells in the plant’s tissues or freeze the soil and stall the supply of water to the roots. Because of these effects on plants, frost is one of the most damaging effects winter can have on plants.
There are however ways of protecting plants from frost.
Method # 1: Cover the Plants
You can use any type of covering such as sheets or old blankets. Bakker’s frost protection fleece though make the best coverings.
- Set up rocks, stakes or bricks to form some sort of a foundation or structure.
- Zip the fleece over the foundation/structure The structure/foundation is so that the plants is neatly tucked inside.
- If using a sheet as a covers, you do not need a structure/foundation. Just directly cover the plants.
- Cover the plants in the evening so they are protected from the frost. The covers will also help the plants retain the heat they were able to gather during the day.
- Remove the covers in the morning or as soon as the sun rises to prevent the plants from suffocating.
Method # 2: Mulch the Plants
You can mulch plants that can tolerate this matter. Tender plants though cannot tolerate mulch so they need to be covered for protection against frost. Mulch retains the heat and locks in the moisture in plants during cold weather
- Use pine needles, straw, loosely piled leaves mulch.
- Mulch the plants up to about three inches deep.
Mulch will keep the plants warm from the frost.
Method # 3: Water the Plants
Watering the plants 2 to 3 days before the expected frost will protect the plants. Wet soil retains more heat than dry soil.
- Water the plants in moderation when during extremely low temperatures. This will result into a frost heave (swelling of the soil during freezing temperatures) and damage the plants.
- Water lightly during the night before temperature drops so nit may help increase the levels of humidity and reduce or even prevent frost damage.
You can also use irrigation sprinklers to protect plants from the frost and from freezing. Avoid using sprinklers though when temperature is extremely low – below 23-240 F.
Method # 4: Build Cold frames
This is best for tender plants that require more protection from frost.
- You can purchase a cold frame from a gardening shop. You can also build one with wood, bricks or cinder blocks for the sides and old fame windows for the cover/door.
- Build a 4-sided frame box (without flooring) with the back portion slightly raised.
- Lay raised beds inside.
- Set it over the plants.
- Build the cover using an old window frame on top.
- A variation could be stacking straw or baled hay around the plants and covering them with an old window frame on to.
Cold frames can protect your plants from frost while at the same allow sunlight to get to the plants because of transparent/clear window frame.
Method # 5: Build a Hoop House
A hoop house consists of plastic pipe, metal or wood bows or hoops with a greenhouse plastic cover on top. To build your own hoop house:
- Choose a level ground.
- Measure a 4 feet x 6 feet bed made of brick or wood. Secure it to the ground.
- Install a small rebar on the ground on both sides of the bed.
- Fit the pipes on the rebar making sure they are stable.
- Once the hoops have been assembled, plant crops.
- Cover the hoop house completely with plastic covers secured with spring clamps to protect plants from frost.
You can build hoop houses on the ground or over rows of raise beds.
Protecting plants from frost is extremely important for plants to survive winter. Do you have any more methods on how to protect winter plants from frost? Share some of your ideas in the comments section.
Thank you to Ann Sanders for this months Guest Blog.