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Avonnow
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Cold weather question PLEASE!

Alright I know we in Florida and have no idea what real cold is, but it is supposed to get into the low 30's tonight :shock: with wind chills running in the 20's - in our area they say it will only be like this for a few hours. I live in a area with a river to the east and west, and because of this we usually don't freeze that often, but last year we did and more then once.
QUESTION: Will a freeze kill everything, I am bringing all my potted plants in the garage, some are in a pool screen enclosure - if I cover them with Sheets and blankets - will this help alittle or will I just look like a fool. I have no idea how sensitive veggies are. I have tomato plants with alot of tomatoes, peppers , broccoli, beans - thanks for any info. They predict this for two days and then it will warm up. I don't want to freak out if this is nothing, but I figured the folks up in the real cold would know better then me. :D
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applestar
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Sherry, I was leaving this to other folks that have more specific answers but I know how panicky *I* get trying to decide what to do and start looking for answers. So, here's a brief answer.

If the local forecast calls for below 32ºF temp, I would pick all the ripe fruits off the tomatoes and peppers as well as all the green ones that have a chance of ripening indoors. If I was pretty certain that the temp will not go below 34 in MY garden (and my garden typically falls 2 or 3 degrees below the forecast), or the weather is supposed to go back to above 40º lows, then I would only pick the ripe tomatoes and peppers and put floating covers or sheets over the plants.

I've gone out in the dark to cover my plants if at bed time, the temp is low enough that I think it's going to get too cold. :lol:

Most of the time, I'll go through this process more than once as the temperatures start fluctuating in the fall -- picking all the ripe ones and all the best green ones and "saying" I'll let the rest go, temps will go back to being comfortable again, then the next "freeze" comes around and I'll pick all the ripe ones and all the best green ones.... until the FINAL deep freeze comes when the temp dips into the 20's for full overnight and I'll still end up bringing in an entire "shirt-front held up in an apron" full.

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Francis Barnswallow
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I just covered my garden. I like the colder weather, but 32 and below is annoying, especially when the weather warms up for 2 days, and then goes down to freezing again.

Susan W
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Getting you container plants to a sheltered spot (pool house, garage, porch etc) usually will help down to freezing. As mentioned above, in ground plants covered with a sheet or something. That helps protect from wind and frost.

Get back to us in a few days with a positive report!
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You have the right idea by bringing your container plants in the garage. A good trick if you're running them in and out every night is to find the sunniest and warmest place in your yard and nearest your garage. Think wind shelter and sun radiating heat off of your house. For me in MI, its often on the east side of the house, on top of my mulch, in the warm morning sunshine. And I don't put them to far from the garage door, easy to bring in that way. :D

I blanketed my tomatoes and peppers earlier this fall too. Might sound silly to you Floridians, but I was proud to make my plants last until late October. :wink: One good trick I learned.. My tomato and pepper plants grew very tall this summer, we had a good grow season here this year. I used some old tomato climber cages turned upside down to put my blankets on. I set rocks on the round 'top wire' (or in this case, the bottom) to anchor them. One thing that I didn't account for was wind. Nothing blew over, but I had a good, stiff, chilly breeze out of the west that night, and I hadn't put the blankets all the way to the ground on the west side of my garden. My rows run east to west, and all of my plants on the western end of the rows died. So that would be something to keep in mind. Maybe let the blankets drape all the way to the ground on the side that faces the wind.

Good luck! :D
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applestar
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Good tip. :D

I also use clothespins to clip the bottoms of the covers to the tomato cage/support/garden fence or wrap the corners around the stem and loosely tie a knot.

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Francis Barnswallow
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As I said before, I covered my garden. And when I checked it this morning there was frost all over the tomato and pepper plants. Will they survive? Tonights temps will be even colder (upper 20's). :?

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Francis Barnswallow
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aarrghh, My grape tomato plant is dying.... :cry:

TWC015
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Francis Barnswallow wrote:As I said before, I covered my garden. And when I checked it this morning there was frost all over the tomato and pepper plants. Will they survive? Tonights temps will be even colder (upper 20's). :?
I don't think your plants will survive if they have frost, unless the growing part of the plant lives, or the plants grow new leaves later. And with more cold temperatures, there is more stress on the plants. The temperatures must have been just too low even with protection. The damage can take a few days to really show up if the day temperatures are cold. Once it warms back in the 60s, you will definitely notice if the plants are alive or not.

The good news is that you have such a long season that you can plants your tomatoes in March. You don't have much waiting time to get new plants in the ground. New tomato plants will also be more vigorous and productive.

Now that I have had a hard freeze two nights in a row, my pepper plants are finally done. I'm surprised they lasted so long, considering there have been several frosts before now. I do, however, have onions, cabbage, carrots, Brussels Sprouts, and garlic plants all growing fine.

garden5
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Since your frost is expected to be short and sweet, you should have success covering them with blankets and bringing them inside a building.

One thing to note, though: don't cover them with plastic. If you do, the parts that are touching the plastic when there is a frost will be killed.

Let us know how you make out.

I saw on TV that they were spraying the strawberries with a coating of water so they would develop a coat of ice on them :shock:. Supposedly, this will keep the temp right at an even 32 degrees. I wouldn't try it, thought. I'd probably do something wrong and kill the whole crop :lol:. It probably only works with strawberries, though.
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thanrose
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No, they use the freeze method on citrus crops down here too. It has to be optimal though. A short freeze, where the fruits are sprayed with water just as the temperature goes below freezing. As you might expect, citrus growers are up in the groves all night when the temps are like this.

There's also a method with oily smudge pots, but again, the situation has to be optimal for that use to work. Plus there is the whole environmental issue, then the cleaning of the crop, etc.

Home growers sometimes string Christmas lights in their frost tender small trees and shrubs. I've also seen a string of lights under sheets over a tomato cage. I'd imagine it could work, but could potentially cause problems, too.

Me, I just watch and learn from Mother Nature. Oddly, pentas are surviving the frosts but periwinkles are not. Impatiens right next to periwinkles are still blooming. I would have thought that Pentas lanceolata would be more tender than Impatiens walleriana which would be more tender than Catharanthus roseus AKA periwinkle, but the reverse seems to be true in my yard this year. Location differences are less than a meter apart and none near a wall.

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Gary350
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I covered my tomatoes and peppers several times and they servived 28 degree weather for a month. It got down to 28 about 6 times, 29 several time, 30 several time, 31 and 32 several time. I never picked anything they did fine. The soil holds heat when you cover the plants it is like a blanket it keeps out the cold and the soil supplies enough heat for protection. If your only going to have a few days of cold weather your plants will be fine.

5 gallon plastic buckets work great to cover small plants. I have about 50 used buckets that I collected from construction sites.
Last edited by Gary350 on Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

garden5
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I saw on the Weather Channel yesterday they were talking about protecting your southern plants when there is going to be a brief dip in temperature.

The man said that plastic in bad to use because it actually conducts the cold and can make it colder under the plastic. Hmmm, perhaps plastic buckets aren't the best idea when it's going to get really cold. He said things like blankets, sheets, etc. work fine, and that they actually make blankets specifically for protecting plants from frost.

One think I found interesting is he said that he's seen people string Christmas lights around a plant before covering it with a blanket. I never thought of that, but it would probably work :idea:.
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!potatoes!
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another trick i've used to good effect (especially if things are in the ground too far away for extension cords for your christmas lights) is gallon water or milk jugs, full of water, for thermal mass. it helps if you put them in under sheets/etc filled with warm-to-hot water (more degrees of protection), but even cool water can keep temps up under wraps...i've got a wigwam out there right now that's been sitting through 10 degree temps for a week now (it's got four gallons of water in it, then a sheet, a layer of dry straw, and a tarp on top)...but to be fair, i should double check its contents before i can say it's worked to these temps. expected to get into the 40's this weekend sometime, and i'll be checking then. it HAS worked down to lows around 20F, and that's without the straw+tarp layers.

will report back when circumstances permit.

cynthia_h
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I've just had a few minutes to go back and search out a couple of threads where I described how I saved my orchids and other patio plants from a Big Freeze here in the Bay Area in 1990. I also had in-ground plants which were, mostly, also saved:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=106341
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=55345

Maybe one or two of my methods, or those of others in these two threads, will be helpful for the Florida freeze.

Cynthia H.
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garden5
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Good info, Potatoes and Cynthia.

One thing I recommend NOT DOING is putting open cans of hot water under a bucket with your plants. I did this with 3 of my pepper plants, thinking it would help the cans to radiate heat off better. The result? One plant died and all of the other plants were fine. I suspect that the water released too much humidity into the air, which adversely affected the plant when it got cold.....and I've heard that peppers are usually pretty hardy to the cold!
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Avonnow
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Cold Again in Florida

Well I just wrapped all my plants up in blankets and pulled all potted plants in garage, I am using any and all advice as I have nothing to lose. If they die they die. So far the days they predicted the freezing temps have not been as bad as they say. I have the temp gauge out there and have checked late and early morning and no 32 yet. Tonight may be first. I like the milk jug idea and will use that tomorrow, it is supposed to be worse. You'd think I had my kids out there the way I am checking and wrapping them. I just put so much effort and this fall I did better then the spring, so I will be disappointed if I lose a bunch. I know the day will come when it will be time to clean up and prepare for spring, I was hoping being in Florida I could keep it going alot longer. I want to thank you all for all the advice.
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garden5
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Glad we could help. Let us know how the plants come through.
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!potatoes!
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just checking back in - the insulated and thermally-massed wigwam did work, as the (somewhat frost-sensitive) plant inside was fine on sat when i harvested. glad i did, though, 'cause it has since gotten colder in this current weather-ing (2F outside when i got out his morning), and i don't wanna push it TOO far. just enough. (though out of curiosity, after pulling the tubers off the oca plant that was inside, i re-planted the roots and reassembled the shelter. will check in again when weather permits)

edit: yes, i probably should have specified sealed/lidded jugs of water. adding water vapor doesn't necessarily help.

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Avonnow
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Christmas Lights

Funny you bring that up, I justed visited my EGG man today and he has helped me alot with my garden. Older and wiser, he uses the Christmas lights when we have cold weather (not LED) but the old type and has found they do help quite a bit. It saved his citrus and Mango trees. I am going to buy some at the after XMAS Sale this year and have them around. Someone else on this forum said they used them to grow their seedlings, so I am going to try to get double duty out of them. I will have the prettiest light show in my garden this winter. I will let you know if they help. The freeze did hit Florida last night, even on the cost. The themp on the patio said 36 , but outside read 27. I have no idea how long it was that cold. I know I lost tomato plants. The ones on the patio were alright, had them covered with three layers, the outside ones, a couple look pretty droopy. I am covering them heavier tonight. I will let you know. I am sad. They had lots of tomatos on them.
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