Question of the Week – Number One: December 3, 2020

Extreme cold, or very early first freeze can both do great damage to tender plants of all kinds (like this oleander in DFW area).

“What is the best way to protect my tender plants from extreme cold?”

People often think about constructing some kind of little greenhouse over their plants and maybe putting a light bulb beneath it, but that is basically impractical. That would involve creating a very small volume of the air around the plants. On a cold, sunny morning, that air would quickly heat to excessive temperatures and the plants would literally cook.

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Instead, you should use a lightweight “floating row cover” that you find at local nurseries and hardware stores. They are traditionally white, gauze-like materials that you drape over your plants. They absorb the sun’s warming rays during the day, allowing the heat to “soak” into the soil. Overnight, that warmth is re-radiated up, then held in place by the fabric.

Frost cloth in place in a prior winter to protect vulnerable plants in the Sperry landscape. It doesn’t look like it would hold out the cold, but it does.

These stop damage of strong winter winds, and they also make 6 to 8 degrees’ worth of difference in the survival of your plants. They slow the rate of temperature changes around your plants.

It’s best to buy a large roll and cut it to fit the appropriate beds and shrubs. Mark the cut pieces, and put them in storage bags in the garage until you need them. That’s a lot easier than trying to cut them on a cold, blustery winter evening.

They can be left in place for days, even weeks if necessary, then removed once temperatures moderate. They certainly can be reused several times.

You may need something more durable than frost cloth to pull up and over a palm, but you’ll still want to use a fabric material and secure it to the ground.
Posted by Neil Sperry
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