Frost prevention: Savor the Day and Cover What You Can

How many weather apps can one gardener have on her phone? As many as it takes to find one that tells her an imminent hard frost is not likely, and all will be well in the garden. Like the emperors of old, this gardener prefers to hear what she wants today. And, what I want is a weather forecast that doesn't read 25 degrees for tonight's low.  

What's a gardener to do? Savor the moment and cover what you can. 

1. Watering is good. Cornell University tells us that a moist soil can hold four times more heat than a dry soil. It will also conduct heat to the soil surface faster than a dry soil, aiding in frost prevention. So, spend the day giving the garden--and don't forget those containers--a good watering.

A weed bucket covering a prized Itoh peony. When the sun hits it, it is time to uncover.

A weed bucket covering a prized Itoh peony. When the sun hits it, it is time to uncover.

2. Cover the most tender plants. Use anything sturdy you can find, and add a big rock or cement block on top of it for extra measure. Most gardeners have an assortment of left over containers from plant purchases. They'll do the job. Wheelbarrows, weed buckets, wooden crates, all can be turned upside down and used for protection. 

3. Frost cloth or sheets? Frost cloth is best because of its ability to retain heat (several degrees warmer), and allow moisture and air to flow through, but if you don't have it, then the linen closet is your next best bet. Sheets, pillowcases, plastic, and newspaper will work. Pillow cases are perfect for slipping over tender plants, but don't let it weigh down the plant. Drape old sheets over plants and secure around the edges. Use plastic the same way but tent it above plants to keep from burning them. Newspapers are good for new seedlings, but due to high winds, they're an iffy choice for tonight, blankets are probably better. Cover before temperatures drop and remove when the sun comes up.

4. What about my trees? My cherry trees are just now budding, with a few scattered blooms. I am praying for tight buds and a miracle. If the buds don't open, we may have pretty pink blossoms when the temperatures rise again, or not. We'll see. Some fruit blooms can withstand temperatures down to 28 degrees, but tonight's low is calling for 25 degrees, so the best bet is to enjoy today's show, and perhaps take some pictures.

A new gardener who faithfully watered her 'Cherokee Princess' dogwood tree last season to get it established, decided to enjoy it for the day, and take a picture until next year.

A new gardener who faithfully watered her 'Cherokee Princess' dogwood tree last season to get it established, decided to enjoy it for the day, and take a picture until next year.

5. Pray for cloud coverage. Clouds act like a big blanket, keeping heat nearer the earth's surface. So fingers crossed for clouds tonight.

Links to bookmark:

Do what you can, and enjoy the rest. We'd love to see pictures of your prized spring blooms, so please post on our Facebook page, or in the comments below, so we can all savor the moment, which is perhaps a lesson for all gardeners, and a blog for another day.

Written by Cinthia Milner, OSA, Garden Coach, andd blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.