The weather in Tennessee is extremely volatile this time of year. One day it could be in the 70's (as it was today) and then the next day it could be a 40 degree high (as it is predicted for tomorrow!) This makes it a challenge to garden in the spring time. There are a few things you can do to protect your plants, but keep in mind not all your plants need protection. Many of our native Tennessee plants are adapted to these spring time temperature fluctuations and will get by fine with minor freezes.
What kind of plants need protection?
Four ways to protect your plants from frost:
- Japanese Maples and leafed out crape myrtles (these two trees were hit hard in the Great April Freeze of 2007, GAF for short)
- Strawberries and flowering fruits (our strawberries are already blooming)
- Tender or newly planted perennials (these tend to be greenhouse grown and aren't 100% acclimated to the outdoors yet.)
- Annuals that you just recently planted that you should have waited on planting until after April 15th!
- Anything else that you would feel safer having covered than not!
Don't forget that mulch will help keep the root systems safe so even if your plant doesn't come out unscathed, having a healthy root system will speed it along to a quick recovery. Make sure that you remove any covering during the daytime to prevent a cooked plant. Also plants do like that light thing so it's best to let them have it!
- Coldframe - You can move tender perennials and annuals into a coldframe for protection if you have one. If not you can easily build a small hoop house with PVC piping and plastic, although probably not by tomorrow. You can even assemble the coldframe over raised beds to protect those strawberries!
- Plastic - Though not the best material to use plastic can be effective in keeping the cold off your plants. Just make sure that the plastic does not touch the plants in any way or the cold will transfer with the contact.
- Sheets - Cloth sheets are probably the simplest way to protect your plants from frosts. Just drape them over the tender plants and stake them down if you need to. Cloth will prevent the frost from damaging the plants and won't transfer the cold through. The thicker the covering the better the protection, but don't run out and get that 800 count thread set of bed linens just for your plants, save that for an anniversary present! Most old sheets will do fine.
- Nursery pots - I did this technique last year to protect my tomatoes from Jack Frost. Just take a saved nursery pot and cover the plant. This works very good for individual plants. If winds are a problem, place a rock or a brick on the pot to hold it in place. Alternately you can use plastic cloches made from milk jugs that will do the trick.
Labels: protecting plants from frost