[NAFEX] Freeze-Frost Protection

Richard Moyer ramoyer at gmail.com
Tue Apr 3 17:29:29 EDT 2007


Bill asks:
"Well, they're still forecasting mid-20's here for the next five nights,
so I bought some visqueen-type plastic and also some clear 55 gal.
plastic bags (commercial bags for 55-gal drums). I thought I'd put TWO
plastic bags (for the insulating layer of air) over the bushes and very
small trees, and TWO sheets of clear plastic over the larger fruit
trees, grapes, etc.  I hoped that would insulate them well enough, and I
figured that, since the clear plastic would let light through, I could
put them on today and take them off next Sunday."

"However, I just talked to the master gardeners at my county extension
service, and they tell me that plastic is the last thing I should use,
because plants need to breathe. They said that this would do more damage
to my plants than the freeze. Is that true?"

"I really can't remove all this every morning and install it again every
night. Maybe I could take them off for a breather after a few days? Or I
could loosen the plastic at the bottom every morning, to let some air in
during the day. What do you think? I really need some advice here,
because I'm all set to start working on this stuff. Do I need to worry
about my fruit trees and bushes not getting enough air for 5-6 days?"

Bill,
In my experience with spring freezes, breathable fabric works much better
than plastic in protecting plants from frosts and freezes.  We use old
sheets, sheer curtain fabric, polypropylene row cover, etc.  The first
two can be found at second hand stores.  Layers of light fabric create dead
air space more reliably than sheets of plastic, when draping over bushes.  A
single layer of fabric protects strawberry blooms from frost and light
freezes, under our conditions.

Many fruiting plants (not all) have the ability to rebloom if blooms or
bloom buds are frozen.  Remember that these plants are genetically
programmed to reproduce.  If I lose 70-90% of my pear, peach and nectarine
blooms and recently set fruit, that would be a blessing in terms of later
thinning.

We, too are predicted to have 5 nights at or below freezing, with mid 20s
included.  I look forward to this as test conditions to ID which fruiting
plants handle such conditions and still deliver a crop.  Those are the ones
I want to plant more of and recommend to others.  The ones that need to be
covered and coddled, I'd rather know it sooner than later and phase them
out.

Richard Moyer
East TN
Where the gooseberries, currants and juneberries laugh at spring freezes.
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