[NAFEX] Frost protection

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Wed Apr 4 10:58:44 EDT 2007

On Apr 4, 2007, at 10:05 AM, William C. Garthright wrote:

>> 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.

The row covers of this type (Reemay, Agribon, etc. "floating row 
covers"; mostly polypropylene fabrics) are actually easier to handle in 
wind than plastic is, because they're air permeable, so some of the air 
gets through them. They are still difficult to handle in wind, just not 
quite as bad.

They do let light through, as well as air. Vegetable crops are commonly 
grown under them for weeks at a time. There are varying weights; 
heavier ones provide more frost protection and less light transmission, 
but do still let a lot of light through.

Even the heaviest ones have their limits, though multiple layers will 
help; but they will give several degrees of frost protection. They'll 
also increase warmth during the day, though, so if you leave them on it 
might bring the buds on sooner. And tender new growth might be damaged 
by them, in high wind, unless there's some sort of structure to hold 
them off the trees (for some vegetables you can lay them right over the 
crop, but for other vegetables you need wire hoops to hold the cover 
off the crops to keep it from damaging the growing tips; sensitivity 

Prices vary wildly. If there are vegetable growers in your area that 
use these, try asking whether you can buy a portion of a commercial 
roll from a neighbor; it'll probably cost you a lot less per foot than 
buying from some of the places catering to home gardeners. Some 
commercial supply places will also sell a partial roll. You might even 
be able to get old torn stuff free from a neighbor; if you overlap 
several layers so the holes don't coincide, it'll still work.

My trees are just starting to swell buds; I'm going to cross my fingers 
and hope. They may have already taken damage from the very long stretch 
of warm weather we had in December and the first part of January, 
followed by the decision of winter to show up after all in late January 
and February.

Finger Lakes NY; zone 5 mostly
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