Admit it. Every single year you want to get started planting your garden WAAAAAY too early and risk losing precious plants to a late killing frost. Well, if you are willing to keep your eyes peeled on the daily weather forecast, you CAN plant early and not lose any plants! Here’s how…
So, many of our favorite plants are tender and simply cannot take any cold. So what do you do if you want to plant your tomatoes early?
First of all, you need to know your last frost date. Here in central Alabama, the last frost date is easy to remember because it is also TAX DAY, April 15. If you don’t know yours, you can find it on the NOAA’s Last Spring Freeze Map.
The Farmer’s Almanac also has a great definition of the differences between LIGHT Freeze, MODERATE Freeze, and HEAVY Freeze, and the damage they can do.
Now that you know the suggested date for your planting area, you have a better idea of when it is safe to plant those tender plants.
But back to the point… you don’t want to wait! And so you buy your plants and one sunny day in early spring you plant them outside and everything is looking SO good! And then… the weatherman says “chance of a light frost tonight.”
Are your plants doomed?
Not if you cover them!
So. How do you cover them? There are several easy ways. The only thing difficult about it, is finding enough supplies to cover the
millions of plants you bought.
If it is individual plants, like tomatoes, that need covering, you can find all your empty flower pots and turn them upside down and place them over your plants. DONE!
Basil plants are very tender. The slightest cold weather will take them out. I covered each individual plant with an upside down flowerpot. The rest of the herbs are more hardy and don’t need protection from light frosts.
If you have a whole bunch of plants all in one area, say… like a whole bed of herbs, you can cover them with a blanket or sheet. You will first need to put up some kind of supports to hold the blanket off the plants. You can use tomato cages, or some rebar pieces stuck around the bed, maybe some trellises, or whatever else you can find, even chairs! Then just drape the blanket over your supports. Use some clothes pins to hold the sheet together if the wind is blowing.
I used a couple of tomato cages in the above photo. This is a grouping of peonies and one tomato cage on each side provided enough support to hold this bedspread up off the plants. It was very windy, so I clipped it closed with clothes pins.
If your tender plant happens to be on a trellis, or some kind of support frame, you are in luck! This frame is perfect for holding a blanket or sheet over night. This peony lives full time inside a metal support frame to keep its heavy blooms from drooping. All I had to do was wrap the frame with a sheet and pin it together to keep the wind from unwrapping it.
Be sure to remove your covers in the morning once the sun is up good! You don’t want them to get too hot and burn. Especially if you used something plastic to cover them. (I prefer NOT to use plastic!)
This procedure is the exact same for early fall freezes! How ’bout that…. you got a two-fer today… how to protect tender plants from late spring freezes and early fall freezes. 🙂