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Lawn and Garden

Late Frost Protective Tips

by Andrew Jozwik
Johnny Appleseed Greenhouses

(click for larger version)
05/01/2012 - I don't know about you but I think the 2012 spring has been the warmest we have seen in ten years. People have been planting things since early April. That kind of early start is unheard of.

That being said, I know how quickly things can change around here, so I wanted to share some frost protection tips with you just in case. I know I have written about this in the past, but I think the temptation to plant early is stronger than ever this year. I am very eager to get some things in the ground. The rule of thumb around Casper is that a person shouldn't plant too much until Memorial day weekend. I believe that, but I also know how short the Wyoming growing season is, and so this year I am going to risk it and plant early.

If you are like me and decide to plant early, be sure that you have a plan to protect from frost ready to go. As sure as it rains right after you wash your car, it will freeze the night you plant your first plants. Although you can't prevent a frost, it is pretty easy to defend against. The best protection your plants can get against frost is to be covered up 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 cut out of it; 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 laying 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 held down well. If we are expecting a dousing of snow with a late frost, it is a good idea to use something rigid 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 in case it freezes again the next 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.

As I said earlier I am betting that we are past all frost, judging by the past few years. But you never know here in Wyoming, so 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, and if you have any questions I am usually pretty easy to find at the greenhouse, so come up and I'll try to answer them for you.

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