What do you use for covering plants during a frost/freeze?

whaas_5a(5A SE WI)April 3, 2012

Folks tend to use sheets and nurseries use a non-absorbant perferated fabric. I can't get the latter in time so I wanted to hear everyone's opinions on plastic vs. sheets.

As for sheets I've heard a few folks metion that sheets/towels absorb moisture so its actually counterproductive since the moisture aobsoring fabric is in direct contact with the leaves.

I've also heard since it breathes is doesn't do much for light freezes.

Plastic...I never heard of anyone using this except for myself. I've used white garbage bags on smaller plants.

My impression is that it traps some of the heat radiating from the soil and moisture doesn't build up and have direct contact with the plant leaves.

For my larger plants I'm thinking about running out and getting a thin MIL plastic to cover my larger plants. I have a 6' x 4' Emperor One Maple that is almost in full leaf.

Under 30 degrees is usally what motivates me to cover plants and its hitting tomorrow night.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hope and prayer..


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 1:44PM
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I think you may be worrying about nothing :-) Hardy plants should be resistant to light freezes -- and 30F in my books easily qualifies. We are still hitting into the low 30's/upper 20's at night here on occasion and the only thing at the nursery that gets covered are temperature sensitive annuals or anything that recently - like within a couple of days - came out of a greenhouse.

FWIW, the warnings against using anything plastic to protect plants is that it MUST be removed at daylight. Without that air exchange, heat will build up rapidly and you can wind up cooking your plants in a matter of a few hours. And moisture does build up in the way of condensation - any time you have cold air (outside the plastic) coming in contact with warm air (under the plastic) you will get condensation forming and the potential for that moisture to freeze and cause damage.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 2:11PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Interesting, so all those JMs and Hydrangea aren't getting covered with upper 20s? Those are the only two I worry about...anything zone 4 or lower I don't even blink an eye.

I have zero experience with JMs as this is my first year with them. But I can tell you Hydrange get pissed off with even a light freeze.

I would defintely take the plastic off before or right at sunrise.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 3:11PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Are you covering the hydrangeas for the winter? With roses, unless the winter protection is removed very early, much earlier than most people are willing to consider, one of the side effects is that the plants are out of sync with the outer world. They leaf out too early, and are too far advanced for the season. That makes them very susceptible to cold snaps.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 3:20PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

All my roses are fully leafed out. Typically don't have issues with the hardy shrub roses though. On the flip side it typically isn't close 80 degrees for a week straight in mid-March!

Mainly talking about Macs and Paniculata. I can't say I winter protect anything. I try my best to situate the plant as such.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 4:46PM
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I've been known to run a sprinkler all night and let water freeze over the buds.

Coverings include remay, shadecloth, sheets, plastic, or whatever happens to be handy and of appropriate size...including garbage bags, although as for the heat trapping value of single night...not sure as to the validity of that line of thinking.

One year, I set up a large fan (40" borrowed from the dairy barn) and used that to move air through a hillside with a pond below.

You do what you can and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 5:18PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Use the sheets.... plastic (clear, black or white) is not used because it's transparent to infrared and will not trap any of the heat radiating from the soil. It might trap some warm air but that's it. Sheets will do a better job.

Moisture on the plants is good. The moisture will need to freeze first before anything can drop below 32F, that's why when you see a hard freeze in florida, you almost always get the photo of the oranges dripping with icicles. The growers turn the sprinklers on so the water keeps the trees at 32 or higher.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:06PM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Right or wrong, I'm using black fleece blankets. One blanket is used for a simple frost, 2 blankets are used for a hard freeze. It's a pain in the @ss to have to go out and cover 20 trees every other night like this. We've left the tomato cages over them for the next month so we don't have to set them back up because we're using boards and bags of rocks to keep them in place against any wind.

The blankets are working. No sign of any damage so far and we've had temps down to 26 degrees. I won't cover these trees next year. This year was an anomaly because of the buds falsely opening due to the warm temps and the fact that these trees have been in the ground only 3 weeks and I don't want them being stressed.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 10:18AM
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Has anyone seen the the latest two GFS runs? Freezing temps well into the south middle/end of next week. Practically all of TN again. Even dipping down into bama, Georgia and some/most of S Carolina! Hopefully it stays to the east of me as it has been consistently for a couple days now but there may be a great need for MANY people to visit this topic in the next few days.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 10:35AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Interesting points so far...

There was actually a frost this morning. Freezing temps for the next three nights.

Anyone know where I can get cheap sheets retail wise?

Every blanket I have is too heavy and I all have is heavy king size sheets.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 10:41AM
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Confessions Of An Over Planner:
When I moved to this climate I bought an enormous roll of burlap and a buttload of floating row covers because I was afraid of cold weather. I already had many cheap, large garbage cans I thought that I could use for the same thing. In addition, I have been collecting outdoor string lights during January sales for years. I also had a collection of small bamboo stakes and scored the motherload of bamboo when I picked up three huge bundles of very large ones a neighbor put out for trash. And finally, I have a roll of chicken wire and a bunch of short fenceposts with which to build cages. I have yet to use any of it and it will be five years next month.

That said I have it if I need it. When the big one comes I will use lights on those most precious (I intentionally placed my tropicalesque bed close enough to run cords to a power source) with a teepee of one of the cloth substances.
Others will just get teepees.

And yes, my garage is full of things I have never used. But I have them on hand and that itself is a comfort.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:11AM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)


Sheets will never be enough for a hard freeze, but they would be just fine for a frost. Think about it, if you wrapped yourself in a simple bed sheet at 26 degrees, how much do you think it would help you? I bought my fleece blankets at walmart, they are small "throw" blankets, smaller than twin sized, and I got them for $2.88 each. I am hoping that by watering the trees moderately just now, (to warm the soil), and wrapping them in 2 blankets each tonight, that they will do just as well during tonight's freeze, as they have the previous freezes we've had.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 12:41PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Sheets for frost, plastic for freeze...I'm just going to roll with it. I really don't have time to dink around but want to get those Hydrangea and JMs covered.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 12:52PM
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Tree Covers is a product made for trees and plants up to 12' tall, its a bag, reasonable price. Really funny video


Here is a link that might be useful: tree covers

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 2:01PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Not the worst product I've seen at the price.

I'd say that girl failed miserably at being funny.

Looking back at this the top 3' of my Emperor One JM died. Several other JMs had some damage but beyond that it really isn't worth the time to cover plants. Survival of the fittest. Try some, win some, lose some.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 8:53PM
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Any plant I've ever covered during frost/freeze, would be done after dormancy is broken. When I have done it then, unless it is a small (non-woody) plant. The trees I've covered always ended up mushy leaved, and worse off than letting the leaves freeze and fall off.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:10PM
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If you have to buy them, don't bother, but if you are rural and have access to square bales, they make very suitable barriers to protect shrubs against freeze if you have space enough around a particular specimen to build that fort around them and throw a tarp over the top. I used to have rolls of nursery insulating blankets. It's similar to, but softer and heavier than that foam stuff one lay down before installing laminate floors. It's lightweight and doesn't compress the foliage. It gets pulled back before the stuff cooks under it. The only product I have ever used successfully what can withstand a couple days of leaving over a plant are fluffs of straw or hay. I stopped worrying about freezing tender ornamentals. If they get zapped, they get zapped. They'll grow more leaves, but you might loose early flowers.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:30PM
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