Is This Really Spring?
6 Tips If We Have a Late Freeze/Frost
The question most asked here at Geo Growers this time of year is: Is it really spring? As I write this, the temperature is pushing 90 F and looking at the 10 Day Forecast, the meteorologists are predicting high temps to be between 60 F and 80 F, and lows of 40 F to 60 F, which sure feels like spring.
Many plants are blooming – the Redbuds, the mountain laurels, and even blue bonnets. Aren’t these blooms giving us a sign that springtime has arrived? After all, it’s been warm most of February this year.
It sure seems like spring, but Texas has a way of fooling you, by slipping in a last minute freeze or frost. Our last typical freeze/frost day average in Central Texas is March 11-20, and more often than not, we’ll experience a cold night or two before the end of March. We have in recent years had a cold snap on April 1st. Some more conservative planters won’t plant until April because of this, when they for sure know that it will be an absolutely safe bet to plant.
This article though, is for those gamblers who want to hedge their bet and plant anyway, knowing even though we may get a freeze/frost and will soon or already have planted their tomatoes. So, here are a few tips for the gamblers, should we have this cold night. Hopefully we won’t, but if we do there are a few things we can do to protect our new plants.
These tips are for a light overnight freeze or frost where your plants only need to be protected for a few hours. If we experience an Arctic Cold Front where we get 15 degrees for a couple of days like we did earlier this year, then all bets are off. Spring will have to start all over again. It’s happened before.
So, should we get notice of a drop in temperature into the low 30’s:
1. Dig up your plants and bring them into your house or greenhouse for the night and replant them the next warm day. A little hard to do if you’ve planted a lot already.
2. Water your plants heavily before the cold snap. Water is an excellent insulator and will warm up the plant’s root system. You might get some burn on the leaves (from the freeze) but the plant should survive.
3. Put blankets, sheets, cardboard boxes inverted buckets or pots over your plants. The idea is to warm up your plants just a few degrees and covering them keeps them warmer.
4. Citrus growers many times will put heaters or smokers in their orchards to add warmth. You’ll have to keep a close watch so you don’t start a fire, of course.
5. Cover your plants with mulch, which warms your plants. Uncover the leaves and stems the next warm day. The mulch will help your plant’s roots stay cooler and retain water longer as spring turns to summer. Mulch is highly recommended by Geo Growers and a good way to hedge your bet.
6. If you have done a lot of planting, covering with a product called Row Cover is a method many farms and larger gardens use to warm their plants as much as 5-10 degrees, which is enough to protect new tender plants. Plastic in sheet form is usually not recommended because it holds moisture on the plant leaves and stems and many times makes it even colder underneath, defeating the purpose and thus more damaging under the plastic sheet. Row Covers are porous and allow plants to breathe.
For more information on Row Covers, Geo Growers can give you more information on the properties of this fabric, which we have in stock in rolls, and it can be cut to your specifications.
Hopefully, we’ll bite the bullet and won’t have to do anything but enjoy our spring, but if we do get a cold snap, these tips should serve the purpose of raising the temperature above the freezing mark just enough to save your new plants.