How To Protect Your Garden From Damaging Frost

You’ll want to read these frost control tricks because frosts are a royal pain in the anatomy for gardeners and can wreak havoc on both the garden plants and the gardener’s morale.

Note: These work for both spring and fall but you’ll have to modify some of the controls for larger or smaller plants as I note below

Here’s what I used to do in the nursery:

Watering The Plants

Last thing at night on cold nights, I’d go out and mist all the plants – put as fine a spray on top of them as possible with a mist nozzle but thoroughly soak them all down. By the time I’d finished, everything was thoroughly soaked through and wet everywhere.

First thing in the morning (and I do mean first thing) before the sun had hit the plants, I’d repeat the soaking.

Sometimes there was frost or ice on the plants -that’s OK. That frost had given off heat in forming (remember to get colder, a material must lose heat) and protected the tender leaves.

When I put more water on that wasn’t freezing, it too added “heat” and melted off the frost leaving green leaves behind.

This technique works on many plants *if* they’ve been hardened off and the frost isn’t a heavy one

Nothing is going to stop 5 degrees of frost but if it’s only 1 degree, then this technique works

For *really* cold nights, it is far better to cover plants with a wet sheet or other insulating material (not plastic – see below.)

(I note this was a problem with the nursery when we had over 25,000 plants outside and we’d often just leave the irrigation system running with it’s overhead sprinklers keeping the plants wet all night.

Covering The Plants

It is possible to cover with an old sheet and then soak the sheet with water.

Frost fabric (row covers) also help while the plants are short (tomato seedlings) but can be difficult if you’re trying to cover taller plants (mature tomatoes.)

Cardboard boxes work – just put them over top of the plant and weight them down.

If you’re trying to cover a plant that’s very tender and breaks easily (impatiens or annuals) then sometimes it helps to drive stakes into the ground to help hold the cloth up over top of the plant. Think of a mini-tent so the weight of the fabric/water won’t crush the plants.

What’s Useless?

Plastic is next to useless – don’t even bother with the effort.

Here’s a source of frost fabric at decent prices

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