Thursday, May 14, 2015

Frost Protection

As anyone still drawing breath knows, 2015 has been a year of unusual weather.  We went from deep and lasting snow cover to daytime temperatures above 80F in just a few days.  May is our last month of frost risk but until last night none has hit our plants.  Frost warnings were posted widely and we took inventory of our covering containers.  Our supply was adequate to cover everything that needed protection.

The three five gallon pails in the shade garden cover the Jack in the pulpits.  They are frost sensitive but the early warmth had teased their early emergence and flowers into the danger zone.  Two buckets in front of the wall protect astilibes.  The blue storage container covers lily of the valley.  We do not know if they are frost sensitive but we had an extra container that just fit.

We are moving some of the oriental lilies near the house for extra warmth.  That cuts both ways since warmth results in early emergence and a longer period of risk.  The extra large trash cans were purchased just to cover lily plantings.  Three bulbs of each variety were carefully planted so that one can would cover three plants.  Golden stargazers adjusted themselves and now require three containers to cover them.  Scheherazade only needed two containers.  Both plantings will be dug up this fall intending to replant so that one super can will cover next year.

Fog of some form filled the air this morning.  We believe that washing away the frost before sunlight strikes the plants may reduce the severity of the damage.  Precious pinxster  bushes are just beginning to show flower buds but are too large to cover with pails.  They were watered late last evening and again this morning.  With luck their flowers may open undamaged.

We are also concerned about the locust tree in the center of the shade garden.  Its newly opened tiny leaves are super sensitive to frost.  If the leaves were burned by frost last night a new batch will regrow but there will be no blossoms this year.

Out early to survey conditions, Becky found a hard coating of frozen liquid on the car.  It quickly softened as the air temperature hovered about the freezing level.  Frozen fog is different from frost and is far less damaging to tender plant growth.

This is what we found at wake up.  The covering containers must be removed before heat from sunlight builds up to damaging levels.  The time to start removal is now.

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