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My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

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My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  laurainwinona on 4/6/2011, 1:58 pm

Hi. I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with using frost covers like the ones in Mel's book -- PVC pipe frame covered with plastic and held down with rocks or whatever.

I'm an inexperienced gardener, (this is my third season as a SF gardener and I never gardened beyond a few flower bulbs before that) so I tend to do exactly what the book says. So, since the book said to transplant broccoli and cabbage outside about 5 weeks before the last frost, I tried to do that, but had to wait until the snow was gone and the beds were workable and the temps were a bit warmer, especially at night. So, on the first day the temps reached the mid-50s, I transplanted broccoli, cabbage and lettuce. It was still getting cold at night (low 30s, and one night down to 27), so I made the frost covers, thinking that they were supposed to keep off the frost. My plants got frost-bleached, and then "cooked" during the day when it got warm, before I thought to open the plastic cover and let in some air. To make matters worse, we got some cold (40ish), blustery days when the wind kept blowing the plastic off until I finally got it to stay put.

So, my question is, besides being a bit more patient about getting things into the ground and more careful about anchoring the plastic, what can I do to keep my transplants from getting "frosted"? And why didn't the frost covers actually keep the frost off?

(And yes, you more experienced gardeners can feel free to say "DUH!" if I deserve it...) Very Happy

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  staf74 on 4/6/2011, 2:07 pm

Hey no way do you "deserve" a DUH comment Very Happy Working through season extension is all a trial and error process based on your unique circumstances. It can be finicky and frustrating but it is doable.

This thread should be able to answer most, if not all, your inquiries.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t5254-hoop-house-issuehow-to-solve-please?highlight=hoop+house

Regards,

Staf

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  laurainwinona on 4/6/2011, 6:11 pm

Thanks, Staf! Wow, lots of info. I don't want to get too complicated....but the link did give me some ideas. I think an extra layer of plastic and maybe a blanket too, and maybe the black water jugs might work if it's really cold, esp. if I set up the HH before plantng so it can warm up the soil in the box a bit. Ultimately, i may just have to wait a week or so to plant.

In any case, this year I lost all of my transplants. It's too late to start the broccoli and cabbage again, but I may be able to get some lettuce and can plant something else in the broccoli and cabbage squares. Next year I'll know better. Smile

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/6/2011, 8:42 pm

Laurainwinona,

I am grateful that Staf, and some others, jumped in that thread and gave me someone to experiment with. This all was learned over about two weeks. And, it was a complete process of trial and error. I didn't lose ONE plant....still haven't. It works.

It doesn't have to be complicated. Just read through what you can and apply what sounds like common sense. But, the main things to know are:

- Without being venitilated, your hoops will get to 50 degrees above the outside temps on sunny days. If it gets to 40, open the ends at a minimum.

- Heat loss at night is your killer. That 2nd row only needs to be put on at sunset, and needs to be taken off at some point early in the morning, if temps are over 32...or it's sunny. (I roll mine up in the morning and keep it inside the hoops over on the squares I haven't yet planted. And, simply unroll it at sunset to cover everything.)

- The water jugs can't hurt, but I still don't know how much they helped, either. When I was ventilating the hoophouse, the water bottles didn't heat up much because the temps weren't hitting 90+ inside the hoops. Therefore, I don't know if they provided much heat retention overnight because they were starting off cooler once I planted and had to take extra care not to let too much heat build up inside during the day.

- Cloudy days are also killers. You will see temps go 10 degress above the air regardless, but you never get hot enough to keep more than a degree differential overnight imo......not to mention back-to-back cloudy days with a 2nd night that is supposed to get super cold. Those situations made me lose sleep. But, still didn't lose a plant....lol.

Any other questions, fire away.

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  Old Hippie on 4/7/2011, 2:07 am

I have been reading a book about frost. It is very interesting and a whole lot more technical than I like but has some great stuff in it. One thing that I found very interesting is that what we need to do if we are to protect our plants is to cover them early in the evening to hold the ground heat in. That was such a revelation to me. The author pointed out that we have a tendency to think of protecting our gardens with blankets to keep frost from landing on the plants. To some degree that is true but basically we want to keep the ground heat from dissipating so we cover the plants to hold the heat IN. If we wait until too late in the evening, we have already lost much of the heat. When BBG covers his at sunset he stands a better chance of trapping more heat.

BUT we can kill our plants very quickly by not uncovering them soon enough the following day. It is tricky but so worth it. Sometimes you win. sometimes you don't. But when you do win it is awesome and the rewards taste so good.

Gwynn

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  laurainwinona on 4/18/2011, 12:54 am

Sigh.... after a warm week when I planted lots of seeds and things began to grow, we had a week of cold, rainy, blustery weather. It even SNOWED!!!! This week isn't going to be any better. I still struggle to keep the plastic from blowing off, though I think I finally have it pinned down now. I hope I still have something left after all that. I've been too busy the last few days to check.

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Help

Post  westie42 on 4/18/2011, 1:29 am

You may have jumped the gun a bit. Even down here in NE Iowa not much has been planted yet this slowly warming spring. I have not even built or filled my boxes yet it has just been too cold and now rainy. Probably next weekend will be my start late as that seems. The good news is it is still very early so if something got frozen out or just won't germinate you still have plenty of time to replant. Most years lately when I do get things in and up this early they get eaten probably by earwigs on warm days so my enthusiasm for jumping the gun is not as strong as it used to be. Sorry you have had such rotten luck but only better days are ahead. Double covered hoops hopefully will let you survive this slow late spring. There are some that really like the black painted gal milk jugs which warm up during the day and gives off heat at night. Set them inside along the south wall of your hoop cover. They are reported to elevate nighttime temps around 4 degrees in a double covered hoop, more yet after a sunny day. If your beds are close to electricity then a regular light bulb of 75 watts or so will supply enough additional heat to overcome freezing from here on out. kinda expensive but you have a lot at stake too. Youtube shows several ideas along the cold survival line. Good luck.

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/18/2011, 10:00 am

I don't know where "SE Minnesota" is, but I did a little checking anyway. Your local frost date is the most impotant piece of information you can know as a gardener.

If you live closer to the river, say Winona, your average last frost (50/50 chance) is April 24th.....still a week off. If you live a little more inland, say Rochester, your frost date isn't until May 3rd.

You can still get frosts and freezes more than 50% of the time this early in the year. If your plants aren't protected from the elements, it's simply too early still. But, the good news about it being too early is......it's still early.

You can get all sorts of stuff in the ground over the next few weeks. You can directly seed now and while the germinations may be slower, the veggies will catch up really quickly if you plant lettuces and spinaches, maybe peas and carrots, too.

Good luck and happy planting!!

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  laurainwinona on 4/18/2011, 1:03 pm

I'm in Winona. I had figured May1 as frost date. I guess when the book says "earliest planting date 5 weeks before the last frost", the "earliest" part didn't register in my brain. Rolling Eyes

Anyway, I replanted from seed the lettuce transplants I lost, and two of the broccoli. I have spinach, chard (if it is still alive -- the chard was looking pretty iffy), peas, carrots, potatoes, radishes, and onions. Most of it was sprouting well. I'll have to go out after I get the kids fed and see if it's all still there. Smile

I was eager to get things in the ground and extend the season as much as I can so that I can get as many succession plantings as I can from our 3 veggie boxes. We're trying to eat organic as much as possible on a very limited budget! So, I'm learning....I hope I'll develop a "green thumb" soon!

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  laurainwinona on 4/18/2011, 11:25 pm

Hooray! Everything is still there and is growing....I even have one chard plant left. It was sunny today so I rolled up the plastic for the afternoon and watered. I battened it down tight again before dinner, because it's supposed to be cold tonight.....and snow and/or ice is predicted for the morning and into Wed.!!!! All this week is supposed to be cold. I have lived in MN for 15 years and this is the coldest, slowest spring I remember. Last year, I planted stuff in the ground the first week of April and didn't worry about frost at all. Sigh.

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/19/2011, 1:03 am

Same down here in STL. Cold and slow. Now, jumpy temps and violent storms frequently. It's as if someone somewhere made someone upstairs angry. Craziness.

Great that all your stuff looks to have made it. Remember, when trying to aggressively extend your seasons, you are going to be gambling. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose. Just be prepared with some covers and tricks to trap the heat and you'll make out pretty well.

If you can get stuff going well ahead of time this spring, you will win your fair share of season extending battles....that I can promise you. It has been a weird spring so far.

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Re: My plants under frost covers still got frosted -- help!

Post  laurainwinona on 4/23/2011, 10:38 pm

After ice and snow and a week of cold, dark days, my plants are still there, and they are growing!! I have kept the plastic anchored down tight all the time, just opened it today since it was warmer outside. Watered and battened it down again. Another week until May! I hope I can then take off the plastic and leave it off until fall. It would be nice to see real spring weather!!

Thanks to backyardbirdgardener and all who posted suggestions. You all have been very helpful!

Happy Easter!

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