Thursday, March 9, 2017

Protect your new plants from a late frost

Portable greenhouse
Thursday, March 9, 2017

When temperatures start hitting the 70's, the desire to rush out get veggies and plant them becomes almost irresistible!  It is too early to plant summer loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers and basil without giving them a "coat" of sorts to protect them against those sudden drops in temperatures we will inevitably get between now and mid-May. 
There can definitely be freezing temperatures that blow in this time of year.  So, warm season crops can melt overnight with one good frost.  Even cold crops like new lettuce plants can be killed if the temps drop into the teens, like is forecasted this week end.
What can you do to protect them?  
*Throw a sheet or plastic or other light weight cover over them when the cold snap comes in.  I remember my grandmother putting a sheet over hers.
*Buy “cloches” which are little plastic or glass bell shaped covers and place over each plant.  
*Put a portable greenhouse over them. 
*Use wall of water.  They really do work!
*Another option is to plant them in pots so you can bring them into the garage when temperatures get into the 30's and 40's.
*I am keeping some plants on the covered deck.  This will keep them protected from frost, but tender plants like basil won't make it through nights at or below freezing on a porch.

The watch-out for covering with plastic, cloches or greenhouses is that you can fry your plants if you leave them closed up during sunny, warmer days.  The cloches that I have come with vents that I can leave open, but I have had casualties even with leaving the vent open.  My portable mini-greenhouse has a zipper opening that makes it easy to vent.  For plastic sheeting, you will either have to remove it when it warms up or have a way for the ends to be opened to allow cooler air to circulate and keep the plastic off the plants themselves. 
This time of year we get some real wide swings in temps.
Surprisingly, I had some peppers under cover and others that were not, and the uncovered peppers did just fine, even when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees.  Getting down into the teens would kill any pepper plants.

For more on extending the season, Extend the season with protection for plants

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