I'm fairly new at any sort of gardening or landscaping. I thought we were past our last frost since the weather has been hovering in the 60-70s lately. So this past week we planted a small vegetable garden (probably about 8 by 10 foot with strawberry, cherry tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower and jalapenos), planted new cistena plum bushes between my salvia that I planted last year and somehow survived! Oh and a row of impatients along our fence.
Our local news keeps chirping that we have a front advisory tonight and I realized I have no idea what I'm supposed to do to protect my new plants in such a predicament. So what should I do?
Sheets. My yard always looks halloweenish this time of year. Sheets cover a large area. If you have individual plants to cover put a flower pot over them held down with a rock or something equally heavy.
if you have old sheets, cover the plants and weight the sheets down on the edges with rocks but not so tight as to smash the plants. Tall buckets, big bowls, 2 liter bottles with the bottoms cut off, milk jugs, paper bags with the edges weighted. Use pretty much anything you have on hand.
It's a waste of time using plastic. It has zero insulating value. Use blankets, sheets, or cloth tarps. This time of the year the ground is pretty warm, so just keeping the cold air off the tops of plants will help. The warmth from the ground will raise up to your covering & keep things warm.
Northern MN had freezing temps last night.
here's a link that explains how frost forms and why it's important to understand the temperature of the air can be different then the temperature at ground level where it can be colder. Overnight moisture falls on the plants and the ground temperature gets cold enough to turn it to frost. Covering the plants prevents the falling moisture to make contact with tender baby plants. http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/whys/frost.htm
I guess it's a situation where you have to decide what you can and cannot control if you only have a limited selection of coverings such as trash bags. You can't control how cold the air will get at ground level but you can control how much moisture reaches the plants. I wish you the best of luck :)
how big are they Alayah? you can always cut open several bags and tape them together to make a tarp and tape it loosely around the trunk of the bush to keep it from slipping off. Sort of like wrapping them like giant lollipops!
*edit..I just saw above...2 ft tall. Can you slip a big bag over them?
it may conduct the cold and insulate poorly but that is not the point of this thread. The issue at hand is a "frost warning" and how to deal with the specific situation of protecting plants from frost. Dealing with the cold is a moot point when it's late, you don't have hours to run to Home Depot for various insulating tarps and you have to address the problem NOW. It's actually detracting from the original issue of protecting the plants from frost. If you'd like to debate the finer differences between cold damage protection vs. frost damage protection, you may want to start a specific thread about that.
so, it's 10pm at night, you are faced with the frost warning situation, you have a limited selection of protective materials in the house, what would you do? your running around the house trying to find anything, possibly trying to get the kids in bed and dealing with everything else. You have a box of trash bags and maybe 1 or 2 sheets.
CountryGardens, If you disagree with the good intentioned advice given here, please come up with an alternate specific solution based on the above parameters that proves the correctness of your opposition on using plastics to keep frost off of plants.
The logic of some of what I'm reading here is interesting. One person in particular seems to be saying that even if putting plastic sheeting over plants when there is a danger to them from cold is counterproductive- that plastic provides no protection whatsoever from cold weather- it's still better to cover plants with plastic sheeting than doing nothing if that's all somebody has on hand to cover them with.
That's kind of like saying that if your car is stuck halfway across the railroad track and a train is bearing down on the car, although putting a chair on the track in front of the car won't stop the train from hitting the car, if a chair is all somebody has to use to stop the train, it's better to put the chair between the car and the oncoming train than to do nothing.
At this time of year, I would assume alayah will be getting a light frost. I deal with those down here a lot. I've successfully used plastic painters drop cloths and plastic garbage bags MANY times for MANY years and have NEVER lost any veggies or flowers. I keep packages of plastic painters drop cloths on hand specifically for this purpose. As stated above, alayah is only looking to protect her plants from a frost, not a freeze. For an actual freeze, I too would resort to sheets, blankets, etc.
At what temperature do you southern people call frost. Up here 32º is frost. It must be a higher temperature there. I don't understand your ideas of moisture causing frost. In the north cold air causes frost. If temperature is 32º or lower things will freeze!
Wow, I had no idea my question would spark a debate.
The good news is that everything seems to have fared fine overnight. I covered the vegetable with a large sheet, the salvia with plastic bags and the imaptients with sliced open garbage bags. It's sunny and 39 degree outside right now, when I removed the bags there was moisture, but it wasn't as cold as I expected. I'm assuming it was a good thing I had just given everything a good watering before I heard the frost advisory. The plastic seems to have made little sauna tents overnight.
Even my strawberry plants which are starting to fruit still seemed happy this morning.
Thanks for the advice everyone. I'll invest in some more sheets or tarps before too long so I don't have to get all MacGyver again last minute.
We have all done the crazy "frost coming!" dance, so don't worry about being new to gardening and not knowing what to do. Sounds like you did just right, and everything survived. We keep a stash of old sheets, burlap bags (known locally as gunny sacks, don't ask me why) and lots of plastic flower pots (the 1 gal. or bigger size that nursery plants come in) for that evening or two when the Texas weather gives us a surprise. Since gardening is addictive, and also expansive, you may want to start your stash now!
I use vinyl shower curtain liners for frost protection for my dahlias in the fall. Works like a charm as long as it doesn't touch the plants . I drape and closepin it over stakes around the plants. I like the liners cuz they are cheap and need less storage space in the shed.