Well, once again we have a frost advisory for our area. We are nearing the end of April and we just can’t seem to kick the winter weather away. We have lots of varieties of tomatoes and beans in the fields, as well as other crops too but we will just focus on the tomatoes and beans for this article.
So what do you do when the weather man says you have a frost advisory but your plants are in the ground and happy up to this point? Well, I have made a list of things to do and or consider when it’s up to you whether your happy plants continue to be happy, or whither away.
- Cover your plants: We all hear this one as a primary suggestion by everyone from the weather man down to your co-worker.Plastic can be used to protect plants from frost, but it’s not the best or most effective material, and some expert gardeners warn against it. Plastic or vinyl materials do not breathe, causing moisture to get trapped inside. If the temperature drops low enough, the increase in moisture presents a greater threat to the plants.Instead of plastic, try using natural fabrics like cotton or linen, an opened burlap bag, or newspaper, as a covering to protect plants from frost.A fabric covering will allow moisture to escape but will still protect plants from frost by preventing the freezing air from coming into direct contact with the moisture. Bed sheets work well for covering large plants and shrubs, as well as young sprouts. Newspaper can be used on low-growing foliage, but won’t stay on top of larger plants well.In a pinch, you can use plastic sheets, but be sure to remove the plastic covers early in the morning to let the increasingly warmer daytime air reach the plants. If the threat of frost is prolonged and temperatures remain low during the day, be sure to use a fabric covering. When there is a threat of frost, cover your plants before sunset.
- Spray with water: One of the reasons plants and fruits are damaged or killed by cold temperatures is that the cold draws essential moisture from inside the plants, effectively freeze-drying them. Spraying plants with water before a frost gives the plants the opportunity to stock up on their supply, becoming more resistant to the effects of dehydration. Spraying or misting your plants also leaves a coating of water on the outside of the plant. When this turns to ice, it can insulate the plant from the cold. The colder it gets on the surface of the leaf, the more damage is done to the plant. A coating of ice keeps the temperature on the surface of the leaf to the freezing point of water or slightly below. The plant will only need to withstand temperatures of 30 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit even if air temperatures drop further.One more food for thought on this. Another way frost kills plants is the little frost droplets act just like a miniature magnifying glass on the cells of the plants. When the first rays of the sun shine on the little magnets the sensitive little plant underneath gets cooked. Think of this as when you were a child and would cook unsuspecting ants with the sun and a magnifying glass. My parents often spray their plants after a frost has hit them in the morning but before first light. This effectively ‘washes’ the frost off the plants.
- Straw, grass clippings, or dirt. If your plants are still quite small, seedlings or sprouts you could cover them with a healthy amount of straw, grass clippings, or even dirt for that matter. Basically anything that lets the frost droplets land on something other than the plant itself.
It’s really not the difficult to protect your plants from frost, It mostly depends on how many plants you have and the size of them that could help sway your decision one way or another. Here I have included pictures of our frost deterrent Yes it’s plast planting containers but it just so happens that we have A LOT of these at our disposal. The tomato covers are also covered in dirt, which will act as a little bit more insulation.