Saturday, October 6, 2012

Protecting Plants From Cold Temperatures

I love this special time of the year.  The mornings are crisp and fresh.  The afternoon sun shines bright with temperatures that are comfortable.  Fall is a beautiful time with a special blend of colors.  It is also a time of year that can be stressful on outdoor plants.  The evenings can get a little cooler than most foliage will appeciate.  The days are warm enough to leave room for continued growth.  It is an important time to protect plants and avoid possible frost damage.  If you still maintain a vegetable garden during fall it is important to keep a close eye on your harvest for possible signs of distress. 

Damage caused by frost is fairly evident.  Leaves will turn droopy and brown spots will show, often appearing transluent.  The only solution for frost damage is to head it off before it has an opportunity to appear. If your plant does subcom to the cold remove any discolored leaves. Keep a watchful eye on the plant for signs of recovery.  If the spoliage is not too severe the evidence of improvement will apear withing a few days to a week.  If signs of deteroriation continue it's likely your plant is not savable.

Moving plants back indoors may  be the most practical solution.  Allowing them the last few weeks of suitable weather to enjoy warm sun and fresh air is more beneficial.  Transferring plants between indoors and outdoors constantly will only add to the stress.  There are several methods to assure plants can remain in a consistant environment.  With the right preperation you can continue to enjoy watching your foliage progress. 

My Pequin Pepper is surving the cold well
with the right care
You'll want to make sure your plants are suitable for the climate. Although some tropical plants will survive in cold temperatures many are accustomed to warmer climates. Always  know your plants expectations and requirements. If necessary move these sensative plants into protection.  See Transferring Plants for tips on safely moving plants indoors. Never water in the afternoon or evening if the temperatures are expected to be lower than your plants willl endure.  The reflective qualities of water projects temperatures of all ranges.

A sheet covers my peppers
When the weather is forcast to be cooler than you are comfortable with add a nice heavy coat of mulch to the bed of your garden.  Hopefully you have saved leaves and grass clippings throughout the spring and summer months.  Once you  have properly treated the mulch for insects give your plants a nice blanket of protection.  See More Pests to Eliminate for checmical free ways to treat your mulch for insects. 

When I learn the weather is turning cooler in the evenings I pull out my stack of sheets to cover the plants at night.  I like a nice, light sheet that won't weight down the plant.  It still provides protection from the cold without harming the foliage.  It leaves plenty of breathing space so my gardening is not interupted.  I can find plenty of sheets at the local thrift store for less than $2 apeice.  Just make sure you wash them well before using them.  If you prefer a havier sheet be sure to use tall sticks to droop the sheet over so it won't smother the plant.

In summary when the weather turns colder it is important to take action and provide protection to your garden and plants.  Transport any plants that will not handle cold temperatures indoors.  Mulch the beds of your gardens and use sheets to cover plants.  Most of all don't panic.  The cold snap will more than likely only last a few days at this point.  Warmer weather will be back before you know.

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