[NAFEX] Frost protection

William C. Garthright billg at inebraska.com
Wed Apr 4 10:05:35 EDT 2007

Thanks for the replies. My plans didn't come to much, after all. It was 
so terribly windy yesterday that I gave up on most of it. I did cover my 
strawberry patch with straw, and I put the plastic bags on two of my 
smallest dwarf trees and one bush. One of the bags (I put on two per 
plant, with a couple of small slits for ventilation) blew off within the 
hour, and the wind has been beating them against the new growth so bad 
that I'm sure it won't do them much good. There was just no way I could 
erect tarps or sheet plastic in that wind, so I gave up on everything else.

It got down to 24 degrees last night and is supposed to stay that way 
for three nights, then drop to about 20 for a couple of nights. It's 
still pretty windy - it was all night, too - but not as bad as 
yesterday. I haven't been out to check on things this morning, but I see 
the rest of the bags are still on.

> I would think the high humidity and fairly warm conditions under there during the day could be a problem if you keep it sealed up - perfect conditions for diseases, especially if sunny.
> An hour of sun in a bag, is darned hot. Just try it yourself!

Yeah, I suppose you're both right. The highs are only supposed to be in 
the 40's the rest of the week, so I figured it wouldn't get too hot, 
though I'm sure it will be warm and humid. And I still don't know how 
much air plants need (I cut small slits in the plastic bags).

> what if a person put a 10 gallon pail of warm water or two under a plastic tarp over the tree overnight - I wonder if enough heat would be released to make up for a lack of insulation - I'm guessing that's asking a lot at 22 degrees...?

I've been saving plastic milk jugs that I filled with water and painted 
black. I set them out under my trees to absorb heat during the day, and 
I was expecting that they'd help moderate the temperature at night, 
under the coverings. However, since I wasn't able to cover anything in 
the wind, I don't imagine they did anything at all.

> Leave the bags open at the bottom.

Just too windy for that. But I did cut some small holes in the bags, for 
a little ventilation (and as wildly as the wind is whipping those bags 
around, I doubt if there's going to be much problem with getting air).

> You don't really want plastic touching the plant. There will likely be damage where it does.

I'd hoped that using two bags would help with that. But the wind is 
pushing both bags flat against the north side of the plant, so - again - 
this didn't work as I'd hoped.

> 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.

Thanks for the tip. Considering the wind (which is pretty normal here), 
I probably wouldn't have been able to put anything up. But I'll try to 
check out the thrift shops this year and see what I can find. I kept 
thinking that using plastic would let light in, so I could leave them 
covered for a week. But apparently that's not going to work.

> Many fruiting plants (not all) have the ability to rebloom if blooms 
> or bloom buds are frozen.

That's good to know. With most of my plants, since I've only had them 
planted for a year, I was more worried about the young leaves and 
shoots. I just didn't want to knock them back, if I could avoid it. But 
my sour cherry tree is three years old, so I was hoping for cherries 
this year. And considering that my young apricot was just FULL of 
blooms, I was mighty curious to see if I could get just a few apricots 
this year, too.

> last year I bought a large army surplus parachute that is 38ft across 
> and weighs a pound or two.  I've not had to use it yet but it might be 
> just the ticket to protect one of my larger trees.

Heh, heh. That might work where you are, but I suspect I'd have been 
sailing over the city if I'd tried that here, at least in yesterday's 
wind! Even in town, it gets pretty windy in the plains states, and I 
imagine that's going to be my biggest problem, whatever I try. I was 
hoping to find a way to delay blooming, at least on a few of my trees, 
and blocking the sun in the early spring would be nice. But I don't know 
how I'd do it and keep everything from blowing away.

I won't reply directly to all comments, but I appreciate ALL of the 
responses. I AM learning, though it might take me awhile!

Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he's buying. - Fran 

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