Did I just witness snow flakes? We do live in Iowa and we are becoming accustomed to the roller coaster temperatures mother nature treats us to. Just as we add a layer of clothing to protect ourselves from the cold our plants need protecting too. Our weekend forecast predicts frost.
First let's review the three types of frost:
Light Frost/Freeze: Temperatures down to 28º= ice forming on the outside of the plant
Hard, Killing & Moderate Freeze: Temperatures between 25º-28º= damage to the foliage and the blooms. Ice forms inside the plant bursting the plant cells. It can kill back to the root, damaging hardy perennials as well as crops.
Severe Freeze: Temperatures below 25º = all of the above stated damage to many plants as well as desiccation.
*it is important to note how long the temperature stays that low
3 Ways to Protect From Spring Frost
1) Spread a 2" layer of mulch around the plants to hold the heat in the soil and help protect the roots. For vegetable gardens dry grass clippings and straw will do the trick
2) Water the soil surrounding the plant the day of the expected frost warning. Be sure not to wet the plant. Wet soil holds more heat then dry.
3) Cover the plant. For larger gardens use a hoop house. For smaller plants a coffee can, or tomato cage covered with burlap, old bed sheets or light weight blankets work as well. It is best to not let the cover touch the plant/foliage.
For damage control to plants that sustain frost try spraying them with water to wash the ice crystals away. *If the sun melts the ice crystals away irreversible tissue damage will be done
It is recommended that you prune any frost damage from plants. Pruning stimulates new growth.
Here's to hoping our spring flowers will bloom and plants will flourish.