[NAFEX] Basic Frost Protection Questions

John S swim_at_svc at yahoo.com
Sat Nov 24 12:27:23 EST 2007

Freeze damage is ususally caused by ice crystals bursting cells or doing other damage.  I'm just wondering here if anyone knows of any serious research regarding absorbable sprays or soil amendements that could be taken up by plants to increase plant cell resistance to freeze damage?

"William C. Garthright" <billg at inebraska.com> wrote:
> I hope you all will excuse the bonehead questions about frost protection.

Heh, heh. You obviously haven't been here long enough to see all of MY 
boneheaded questions! But this group is very patient and very helpful. 
If they haven't thrown me out yet, I don't think you have anything to 
worry about.

Regarding frost protection, we had a long discussion about that last 
spring. I haven't been here too long, but I suspect that it probably 
comes up every year. It is, after all, a perennial bane. (You might try 
checking the archives.)

What I got from our discussion is that there are a variety of tactics 
that might or might not help, depending on how many plants you must 
protect and - especially - how cold it gets. If you only need a degree 
or two of protection, something as simple as running a sprinkler all 
night can sometimes help. On the other hand, sometimes nothing will do 
any good. Last spring, after a very warm March, temps here dropped way 
below freezing for five nights in a row (lowest was 17°). Nothing I did 
- and probably nothing I could do - made the slightest difference.

I'm just a newbie, but in your case, I'd suggest just using TWO layers 
of frost cloth, rather than pay to have frames built. One layer doesn't 
do much, especially if it's touching the plant, but two will have some 
air between them for insulation. If you think you need more than that, 
run an extension cord out to it and put an incandescent light bulb under 
the cloths. Or you can use Xmas tree lights, jugs of water, or anything 
that will provide just a little heat.

Yes, you'll have to take these off between frosts. I don't know exactly 
what you're trying to do. In my case, it would be a matter of delaying 
the first fall frost a bit (for vegetables) or protecting early growth 
from a late freeze. If you expect to do this all winter, it would be a 
LOT of work, and maybe you should think about what you're planting. Or 
maybe some kind of semi-permanent greenhouse structures would make more 

One other thing: for me, here in Nebraska, the wind is usually a factor. 
We tend to get colder on still nights, but it can still be windy during 
the day, which makes it extremely difficult to erect cloth shelters. And 
last April, during our cold snap, the wind howled all day and all night. 
Not only did it blow off almost everything I tried to use, but I don't 
suppose the 'two-layers of cloth' idea would work as well when the wind 
is whipping things around. Things are probably different for you, but I 
thought I'd mention it. I'm almost to the point that I'm just going to 
accept whatever the weather does and try to live with it. But if you 
just need to get past a night or two of cold weather, it might be worth it.

To repeat, though, I'm just a newbie at all this, not at all an expert. 
I am learning - this list has been extremely helpful - but I have a long 
way to go. Still, if I misled you about anything, I'm sure someone more 
experienced will correct me.

Good luck,

Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

Blind faith can justify anything. In a man believes in a different god, 
or even if he uses a different ritual for worshipping the same god, 
blind faith can decree that he should die - on the cross, at the stake, 
skewered on a Crusader's sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in 
a bar in Belfast. - Richard Dawkins
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