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Lawn and Garden

Protecting Against a Late Frost

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05/01/2011 - Well it finally looks like we might be safe from the last frost for the year. But knowing how quickly the weather changes in Wyoming, I wouldn't bet the farm against it. I have written about the threat of late frosts in the past.

This year, with how the weather has seemed to shift from hot one day to snowing the next, I thought it would be a good time to give some frost protection tips again. The rule of thumb around Casper is that a person shouldn't plant too much until Memorial Day weekend. But with our short growing season, it is hard to keep from putting things in a little early. If you decide to do so you need to be ready. As surely as it rains right after you wash your car, it will freeze the night after you plant your plants. Although you can't prevent a frost, it is pretty easy to defend against one.

The best protection your plant can get against frost is to be covered with plastic or cloth the evening it is going to freeze. Things like light weight, tightly woven blankets or yard bags work very well for covering small areas. Construction film works very well for larger areas, or for row crops. This film is readily available at many of the home improvement stores around town.

One of the best methods of frost protection for small to medium areas, is an old tent with the bottom removed. This not only protects from frost, but it also does not lay directly on the plant. If your house is like mine there are many forgotten tents around just waiting to be called back into service. No matter what kind of cover you use, make sure there are not any large holes in it, that it covers the plants completely without crushing them, and considering our wind around here, that it is anchored well.

If we are expecting a dousing of snow with a late frost, it is a good idea to use something ridged like a heavy cardboard, or a wooden box to cover your plants. If you expect snow with the frost, and you are using plastic or fabric to cover your plants, a couple of well placed stakes can hold the cover up off the plants and keep the snow from crushing them.

One of the most common mistakes people make when protecting their plants from a late frost is that they decide to leave the cover on the plants the next day just incase it freezes again the following night. This is a bad idea because if the sun comes out even for a few minutes during the day there is a good chance the plants will get cooked under their frost cover. So be sure to remove your frost protection early enough the morning following a frost.

One year we could be frost free by the fifteenth of May, and the next it could be snowing on that same day (like last year). So you never know here in Wyoming. If you are thinking about playing the odds and planting a little early, it is best to be prepared. Remember these frost protection tips, and they will also help you extend your season into the fall. I hope you have a great and productive gardening season. If you have any questions feel free to come up and see us at the greenhouse, and we will try our best to help you out.

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