After what seemed to be a very long winter with above average snowfall and a cold March, many of you I’m sure have planted already with temperatures recently being a touch warmer. Well, there’s some frost possible tonight with temperatures that are forecast to drop down into the 30s! Here are some tips on how to protect your plants.
What is Frost?
As the air temperature approaches freezing, the surface temperature of the plants can dip below freezing, causing ice crystals to form. This often occurs on clear and still nights. Temperatures vary between the surface and just a few feet above the ground, which is why there may often be times when the thermometer reads a temperature above freezing but there is frost on the ground. This being said, frost can still occur with a temperature reading of 34°F or 35°F.
Bring the Plants Indoors
Some gardeners have watered the plants a day or two before the frost in the evenings. Watering the ground lightly enough to moisten it will raise humidity levels for ideal frost protection. Frost heaving could become a risk when watering heavily during cold temperatures. A frost heave occurs from ice forming beneath the surface of the soil during freezing conditions.
Another way to avoid potential plant damage caused by frost is by simply covering them. A dry blanket would be ideal for covering plants in the early evening before the frost. Avoid using a wet material as evaporative cooling can allow for colder temperatures. When covering each plant, be sure to use either stakes or wire to avoid crushing or bending the plant. Also, the blanket should be secured at the bottom to allow warmer temperatures to remain under the blanket throughout the evening. Both bricks and rocks are excellent choices. When temperatures rise above freezing at the ground level, remove all coverings to avoid suffocation.
Mulching (two to three inches) around plants can help insulate the soil beneath during light freezing conditions. Mulching is not preferred by some plants, though. Mulching can burn some plants from its decomposing material. The mulch may need to decompose before using it around tender plants. Some examples of good mulching materials are straw, pine needles bark and loosely piled leaves.
When deciding which plants to choose, take a look at the type of climate they can live in. By planting frost-tender plants, this will allow them to be easily moved for storage when frost or a freeze is expected.
Thanks for reading
Meteorologist Kevin Arnone