Woah, you guys! Can you believe all that SNOW we had! Ok, we've lived here a while and never, I mean never, that much snow. I even heard from a fella who's been here for decades and he's never seen that much. Our poor tykes have long asked what snow even is, cruelly taunted by popular Disney productions, and all I could say was "Let it go" guys (haha) we're in a no-snowman zone. So this (late) Christmas miracle was heaven, and my kids went hog wild in that stuff.
However, our delight aside, our plants were less enthused. Lucky for us, warned by the "correct this time" weather folks, we could tuck our garden beds in nice and snug. We may or may not have sung them a lullaby while we're at it. (What, you don't sing to your plants?)
Here's some tips and products that can help you protect your garden veggies whenever there's a frost on the way.
HEALTHY PLANTS ARE HARDY PLANTS:
The first thing we want to mention is that healthy plants, are tougher plants. Generally plants that are well timed, vigorous, and well watered will fare better in less fair weather. Even if they sustain a bit of damage, they can often pull through. So take good care of those little guys.
WHEN TO PROTECT:
Root Crops and Hardy Greens - The garden veggies that can really take the cold are roots like beets, radish, turnips and carrots. Also thicker leaved greens such as kale, collard greens, spinach and parsley, as well as brussel sprouts. These guys are a pretty safe bet, and for many frost even improves their flavor (here's lookin at you, carrots). Mine are often covered, just in case, if a hard freeze of 28 or lower is coming since I'm covering the rest of the garden anyway.
Cool Weather Crops - When a freeze between 28-31 degrees hits, tender leaves like mustard, lettuce and chard; cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; and onions will want a cozy cover from the frost. They may get some damage (die back on shoots or edges) but should be ok.
Spring Transplants - Once those spring and summer transplants are in the ground they really do need protection in any frost. 33 degrees can kill tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, watermelon, and so on. Peas like cover too even though they're tougher.
FOR HOW LONG
One thing to remember is that as soon as it warms up a bit (often the next late morning) your remove the covers, or at least pull them back for the day. Plants need light and air circulation. They can also still dry out in chilly weather, so checking the soil moisture is a good idea. Also as temperatures rise in spring, daytime temps can shoot up fast, and covered seedlings can get too warm if left covered in the sun. So let them breath, then cover back up at dusk if needed for another cold night.
WHAT TO USE FOR COVER
Here are a few products that we use for our kitchen gardens. Some gardeners like plastic cover. It's tough and lets light in, but needs to be dried out before storing.
Others prefer frost cloth (my favorite) or garden blankets. When it comes to frost fabrics, you get what you pay for. Some are great, while others are prone to tears, so secure well and put them away when not in use.
In a tight spot? Any old sheets from the closet will do. If you want to only cover a small area then I have even used plastic storage tub turned upside down with a heavy rock on top. Plants don't care how creative you are, they just want to be snug and warm.
Securing your covers is a crucial step, lest the wind rip those things right off the bed and into the yard, and then you're putting them back on in the dark in your unmentionables. True Story. If you have garden hoops (commercial or arched pvc are both great) then clamps or even larger sized pvc pipe clamps will clip onto those hoops, and also to the border of the garden bed. Make sure to get the right size clamps for your set up.
If you're simply draping the fabric over the beds secure them with clips, rocks or terracotta pots to keep it down.
Occasionally rain (or in in this week's case a LOT of snow) may collapse your covers, just keep an eye out there.
The first time may feel like a hassle, but covering beds soon becomes a routine labor of love, well worth the bounty our kitchen gardens bring us. Enjoy the fun (and the frosts) whatever these Texas seasons may bring.
Insider tip: Some folks swear by tucking a few strings of Christmas lights under the covers, raising the temperature just enough. Please do be sure to use outdoor cords and such, and let us know how it works for you!
Be sure to visit us on Facebook and Instagram, tag us in pictures of your covered gardens or use #lettucegrowsomethingsnow, so we can see your great set-ups.
Frosts do eventually fade (sometimes all too soon). If your garden needs an update or an full overhaul, schedule a virtual consultation, and we can get started before spring roars in! CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE
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