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 I want a weather forecast that doesn’t read 25 degrees for the weekend low–again. I use an assortment of odds and ends for spring frost protection, from buckets to trash cans to gas grill covers and sheets. Whatever works.
What’s a gardener to do? Savor the moment and cover what you can.
1. Watering is good. Cornell University says moist soil can hold four times more heat than dry soil. It will also conduct heat to the soil surface faster than dry soil, aiding in frost prevention. So, spend the day giving the garden–and don’t forget those containers–a good watering.
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 leftover containers from plant purchases. They’ll do the job. Wheelbarrows, weed buckets, and wooden crates can be turned upside down for protection.
3. Frost cloth or sheets? Frost cloth is best because it retains heat (several degrees warmer) and allows moisture and air to flow through, but if you don’t have it, the linen closet is your next best bet. Sheets, pillowcases, plastic, and newspaper will work. Pillowcases are perfect for slipping over tender plants, but don’t let them weigh down the plant. Drape old sheets over plants and secure them around the edges. Use plastic the same way but tent it above plants to keep from burning them. Newspapers are suitable for new seedlings but are an iffy choice if the winds are high. 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 pink blossoms when the temperatures rise again. We’ll see. Some fruit blooms can withstand temperatures down to 28 degrees, but below 25 degrees, the best bet is to enjoy today’s show and perhaps take some pictures.
5. Pray for cloud coverage. Clouds act like a big blanket, keeping heat nearer the earth’s surface. So fingers crossed for good cloud coverage.
Do what you can, and enjoy the rest. We’d love to see pictures of your prized spring blooms and how you protect them, 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, Landscape Consultant, and blog writer.
BB Barns serves Western North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.