Preparing for a Frost

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With the cold months creeping up, it’s time to start preparing your gardens for a frost. To start, it is important to know the two different types of frosts and if it is worth the effort for crop protection. First, an advective frost occurs when a cold front moves into the area and temperatures drop drastically. Second, a radiation frost occurs when clear, calm nights do not have enough cloud cover to hold in the heat and temperatures only drop a few degrees below critical levels.

Below are a few different ways to cover your plants and protect them from a frost.

  1. Blankets & Sheets – The old method of covering your plants with blankets and sheets works great. Just make sure the fabric remains dry.  If the fabric absorbs water, evaporative cooling can lead to colder temperatures adjacent to the blanket.  Make sure you remove the blankets during the day, so the soil can recharge from the sun.
  2. Floating Row Covers – Floating row covers are lightweight fabrics that lay directly over crops.  Because they transmit light, they provide crop protection over an extended period of time without being removed.  They provide 2°F to 4°F of frost protection, cut wind on tender plants, and screen out some insects.  On insect pollinated crops, covers must be removed for pollination to occur.
  3. Clear Plastic on Mesh Frame – When you use plastic to cover your plants, you must use a fram to prevent it from touching. Plants will freeze where the plastic touches them. You can find “tunnel” hoops in gardening catalogs. These are placed about three foot apart and the edges of the plastic will be buried a few inches into the soil on all sides.  Then make sure you cut a few holes or slits in the plastic every two foot in reduce over heating.
  4. Adding Lights –  Christmas tree lights can work great for added heat inside the frame. Lights can be turned on at dusk and off at dawn.  Christmas evenly warm the plants, so you don’t have to worry about certain corners getting colder than others. If you really want to extend your growing season, try Christmas lights plus a space blanket!