Cold Protection: Preparation is the Key to Success
Panhandle Florida gardeners face a new set of challenges annually dealing with the effects of cold weather. A little planning and creativity can make plant protection in the landscape successful.
Many homeowners and landscape managers want to know when plants will need protection. Depending on the plant, a frost warning is a good rule of thumb.
Note there is a difference in the terms used for cold weather conditions. Frost, freeze and hard freeze all describe different circumstances.
Frost is when water vapour freezes on surfaces. It happens on clear nights with still air and may even happen when temperatures are above freezing.
Freezing is when cold air moves in and causes temperatures to drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This condition commonly involves low humidity and wind, making drying out a big problem for plants.
A hard freeze is when temperatures dip below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Many tropical plants and fruit trees will survive a few degrees below freezing for brief periods, but extended periods of freeze or heavy frost may require lights or other heat used safely with a cover.
Many time freeze damage happens during the busy holiday season. People are busy, schedules are disrupted and the distractions, pleasant thought they be, may cause homeowners to miss a freeze alert.
A few simple actions can save these “green” friends for another year’s enjoyment. Some plants can be moved indoors for the winter and incorporated into the interior décor, rather than cramming them last-minute into a clutter when a freeze looms.
Identify old sheets, blankets and drop cloths which can be used as covers for tender plants which must remain outside. Test potential covers beforehand to assure all plants are thoroughly covered.
It is best if the covers enclose the plant entirely without crushing it. Heavy blankets are great insulation, but only a good idea on sturdy plants.
A tomato cage or other support structure can be used to keep weight off the plant. Covers also need to be secured at the ground with pins or weights to assure cold air does not creep in from below.
Finally, keep storage bins handy and remove the covers in the daytime if temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monitor weather reports and react accordingly so tender and tropical plants see another spring in a few more months.
To learn more about protecting delicate plants, see “Cold Protection for Landscape Plants”.