As a gardener there are a lot of things that you can do to protect your flowering shrubs and fruit bearing trees and shrubs from frost damage in the early spring. Of course the size of the plants determines how much you can do and be successful.
Frost is the quiet enemy that looks in the night.
But it’s important to distinguish between a hard freeze and a frost. When it drops down to 32 degrees F. and stays at or below that temperature for an hour or more freeze damage is likely to occur. But a frost can occur even when the air temperature is above 32 degrees. A frost will damage some plants, others it will not. Those most at risk are fruit bearing crops like strawberries, peaches, grapes, apples and so on. A frost usually doesn’t do long term damage to the plant itself, but it can and will kill the blooms before they can be pollinated and before fruit production can begin.
Create a breeze to keep the frost aloft.
Farmers who grow fruit crops for a living must take an aggressive approach to controlling frost damage if and when they can. In the grape vineyards here in Ohio they figured out that if you can keep the air moving over the vineyards that often enough to keep frost from settling in. So many of the grape growers have stands built at the end of the vineyard that support airplane engines propeller and all. On nights when frost is predicted they start up the airplane engines and run them at fairly high speed to create artificial air flow over the vineyards.
Add water, create ice, add more water!
Strawberry growers, apple growers and I’m sure other warmers actually water their fruit crops early in the morning before the sun comes up in a effort to wash off the frost before the sun hits it. Apparently the frost on the bloom isn’t near as damaging as the sun hitting a bloom that is covered with frost. I’m not sure what the scientific reason is, but I do know that it works. They start watering before the sun comes up and often times the water freezes on the plants creating ice formations. The farmers just continue to apply more water over the ice until it warms to the point that the ice melts. As long as they keep apply water until the temperatures rise, all is well. Sounds crazy I know, but it works.
A few at home strategies that work.
So at home with a small number of fruit crops what can you do to save them from a coming frost? It’s probably not feasible for you to create a breeze in your yard without having the neighbors trying to have you committed. But you can use your garden hose to wash the frost away. Get up early before the sun comes up, or just as the sun is coming up and try rinsing the frost from your plants.
Be Careful, don’t blow up your plumbing!
What???? Keep in mind, come winter you should disconnect all garden hoses from the sill-cocks so the water can drain from the fixtures so they don’t freeze and break. Today most of our homes have frost freeze sill-cocks to protect them from freezing. However , these fixtures are only frost free if you disconnect the garden hose so the water inside the fixture can drain out. If you leave the hose connected the fixture will freeze, break and could create a real mess in, or under your house. So if you’re out there in the early spring hooking up a garden hose, be sure to disconnect it as soon as you are done.
Use the heat that Mother Nature has provided for you.
Ground heat baby! Ground heat! In the nursery business we take every opportunity possible to utilize the natural heat from the ground. As you probably know the earth is warm. Things below ground rarely freeze. They never freeze if you go below the frost line. So with plants that are close to the ground you can protect them from a frost, or even a freeze if you cover them up. You can use plastic, newspaper, bed sheets, plastic tarps, anything you can find. But the thicker, more insulated the covering you use, the more protection you are providing for your plants.
Around here we have a store called Harbor Freight and they also have a website where you can order online. But they often advertised padded movers blankets at crazy low prices. Those things would be perfect for covering strawberry plants, maybe blueberries or other low plants that you would like to protect. A heavy covering like that would do a great job of trapping in that ground heat. Many gardening stores sell frost blanks and other devices that you can use to cover some of your fruit and vegetable crops from frost.
There you have it, I hope you found this useful. Questions or comments? Post them below.