“No frost. No frost. No frost. No frost.”
That was one of my friend’s updates on Facebook this past Monday evening. In New Jersey, the rule has always been to wait until Mother’s Day weekend to plant your tomato plants and you’ll be safe from frost. But here it was, the day after Mother’s Day, and there was a frost warning.
I threw caution to the wind and planted my tomato plants weeks ago, along with other frost sensitive plants like eggplant, peppers, and basil. Of course, I had no plan for frost control. Between some light plastic drop cloths we had in the basement, several large Rubbermaid containers, and a beverage bucket, my husband and I were able to create a hodge podge of coverings and everything was protected. A little creativity can work wonders when you’re unprepared.
Just about anything will work when you need to cover your plants for one night. The trick is to make sure you don’t crush the plants. The cover either needs to be very lightweight or supported by some sort of frame so its full weight isn’t on your plants. If you don’t have a large piece of material to cover the plants, try using one of these objects placed over your plants.
- Cut off milk cartons
- Cut off 2 liter soda bottles
- Large plastic bins – like the big Rubbermaid ones I used
- Upside down paper cups
- Upside down flower pots
- Glass jars
- Cover up before dusk! By the time it gets dark much of the stored heat in the garden has already been lost.
- You can collect heat during the day by painting plastic milk jugs black and filling them with water. Place them around your plants where they will collect heat during the day. Water loses heat more slowly than either soil or air. This collected heat will radiate out throughout the night.
- Potted plants are particularly susceptible to frosts because their roots are also unprotected. If you are unable to move your container plants indoors or under cover remember to also wrap the pot in burlap or bubble wrap, or simply bury the pot in soil in addition to protecting the foliage.
My garden isn’t that big, and now that I’ve had one frost scare, I know that I can makeshift frost protection whenever I need it. If you have a large garden, and want to have materials on hand to protect it in the face of frost, this short video shows you how protect long rows of plants.