Frost Protection


Acorn and ThistleIt’s getting to be that time! As we draw closer to the end of October, the temperatures are dropping a little more each day. According to my calendar, in previous years we’ve seen our first frost here at the house any time between this past Sunday (10/26) and November 7th. While that doesn’t guarantee that we’ll have frost this year during the same time frame, it does mean that it’s time for me to gather up my frost gear for the garden.

I keep a box of light frost blankets standing by the back door, ready in case the temps suddenly dip. These blankets have a drawstring bottom and slip easily over the tops of my raised beds - I’ve already prepped the areas needed with a good layer of mulch and some PVC hoops, so I’m not totally rushing when the forecast changes. The blankets are a breathable poly fabric, and work well for the lighter frosts we see this time of year.


Fortunately, here in the Pacific Northwest, our winters are typically quite mild and frost protection doesn’t have to get too involved. I do have some heavier duty green frost blankets for the inevitable week or two of really cold weather that we get periodically; those can get tossed right on top of the white ones already in place, for some extra help. The nice thing about the darker ones is that they help draw in some more heat when the sun is shining, which is perfect for our weather patterns here.

Plastic can also be used, but it needs to be raised up high enough off the plants so they aren’t touching each other, or else the plants will freeze wherever the plastic is in contact with them. In a pinch, I think it’s better to break out some old sheets instead of the plastic - they’re breathable like the poly blankets and can be in contact with your plants without worry. Plastic also needs to be opened in the daytime when the sun is shining, so that the heat doesn’t build up too quickly and harm the plants.

In researching other frost protection options, I came across a recommendation to use mylar space blankets in extreme cold situations. These blankets will retain much more of the soil’s heat overnight, but they need to be removed in the daytime to allow the soil to recharge. Space blankets are relatively inexpensive, and can be found anywhere camping gear is sold. 

10/29/2014 8:14:00 AM

Laura, my garden is in the winter mode already. My thoughts have been moving toward season extension for the last couple years but so far I haven't made the attempt to do it. I'm just back from a Mother Earth News Fair and one of the speakers that I listened to talked about the ways to extend seasons on both ends of the Winter season. I'm still weighing the pros and cons of the amount of work compared to the amount of harvest during those times of the year. We have had only one frosty night so far this year and it really didn't hit my plants too much but they were done for the year so I cleaned up the garden and put it too bed. I'm finishing up a couple fall projects and then it will be into planning for next year's garden. This year was a bit disappointing because of extreme weather issues. Next year will be a better planned year because of it. I had the right idea of starting way more plants than I needed for issues that happened last spring but just didn't plan for three plantings if needed. It probably won't be needed next spring but just in case it is, I'll be ready. ***** Have a great frost protection day.

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