When Old Man Winter makes an out-of-season appearance, protecting your vegetable garden
from his harsh chills should be at the top of your priority list. Fortunately, no special gadgetry or expensive equipment is needed to give your plants proper frost protection
. You can keep your plants toasty warm on a chilly night with a variety of household items.
If a chance of frost is in the weather forecast, begin by watering plants in the afternoon. The moisture in the soil will help them to conserve warmth. Protect plants by covering just before sunset. Covers retain heat due to the insulation provided in close quarters. Cardboard boxes of various sizes make great protection for individual plants. Plastic tarps or bed sheets are other options. Drape sheets gently over plants, securing at ground level to create a tent. Remove the covers at daybreak so your vegetables can begin to soak up some sun.
Frost occurs when the temperature in the air is lower than the dew point temperature, causing moisture in the air to condense and attach to nearby surfaces. When surface temperatures are warmer than about 35o
F, this condensation appears as dew. Lower temperatures result in cold condensation that appears on lawns, plants and car windshields as icy crystals we recognize as white frost. Keep in mind that temperature do not need to fall to freezing for frost to occur. Since heat rises, cooler temperatures will always be at ground level, which may be freezing even if the thermometer (located feet above the ground) reads warmer than 32o
The safest bet for determining the possibility of nightly frost
is watching your local weather station. If you don't have time to watch, sign up for their email list to receive daily weather forecasts between cold seasons. Protect vegetables
anytime your weatherman predicts “a chance of frost” to avoid frost damage
. As the temperatures get cooler, you'll also want to consider preparing the rest of your yard for winter