The Frost Cloth helps lengthen the harvest time and extend the flowering season and it is available in numerous roll sizes.
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If you live in a cold climate, saving vegetables in your garden can be a real challenge. A very common sight is watching gardeners racing around their gardens trying to salvage vegetables in the middle of the night when temperatures have dropped or frost is forming throughout their gardens. If you are a gardener how about waking up one chilly fall morning to the dreadful shock that all your vegetables are dead caused by frost? You are heartsick because you had no idea it got that cold the night before. Had you known, you would have harvested the last batch of tomatoes or sweet peppers before this happened.
A frost blanket or row cover is a light fabric usually made of polypropylene or polyester that is placed over plants during colder weather protecting them from low temperatures and frost. Due to its incredible design, sun, water, and air can get through so even if you cover them all day and all night, they will be safe. This cloth comes in different weights, lengths, and widths to fit your needs. We will provide more information on this topic later on.
Even though this material can be used in spring as well as the fall, we will be focusing on the fall season to prevent frost from harming your plants.
Plant Damaged by Snow
Frost cloth/blanket will capture heat when the temperature starts to fall, keeping the plants warmer. Using a frost cloth in your garden will extend your garden time. Use it in the fall to protect your plants from frosts that start developing in colder climates. This cloth will keep your plants alive and healthy so you can continue harvesting. Frost blanket/ cloth will keep your plants under the row cover warmer throughout the day and evening hours instead of exposed in your garden uncovered.
If you want to protect warm-weather vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, basil, or eggplant, you should definitely get them covered before the first signs of frost. Around that time of year, you should keep a close eye on weather forecasts to get a good idea of when to place your frost cover on time.
Keep in mind, warm-weather vegetables are not very productive during the fall and will start to die off or will be affected by diseases. Many gardeners will not spend the time to cover these plants because it's time for them to die off. If these plants are tall and you want to cover them, it might be a little tricky. Also, make sure the row cover is not touching the plant or it will transfer through the fabric.
You should probably focus on cold-weather vegetables that can be damaged when the temperature drops below 30 degrees such as lettuce and parsley. These crops thrive in cool temperatures and can survive the first few incidences of light frost but once the temperature drops into the mid-20s, they will suffer from frost damage and die. If you cover them in your garden beds with row covers, you can get them to stay alive into the late fall or possibly early winter.
Cover Them BeforeThe First Frost -
These vegetables will die at 32 degrees without proper protection using this material. By the end of the season, they will not be productive so you could just let them die out with the first frost instead of covering them up.
Frost Damage At 38 Degrees
Frost Damage At 28 Degrees
Below 25 Degrees - In this group, these vegetables can survive early frosts but should be covered once the temperature hits the mid-20s.
The following vegetables can survive winter in many climates without any protection. At some point, you should cover them in row cover and eventually put them in a greenhouse for added warmth.
Note - Perennial Herbs, Mint, Onion, Chies, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme do not need to be covered.
What you should know about the different kinds of row cover weights:
When purchasing a row cover, you have to know the different weights to choose the correct one for your particular requirements. The heavier the cloth the more temperature protection you will be offered but the less light will get through. This is not a serious issue during the winter months as plants have stopped growing due to the shorter days. During the spring months, this is a big deal as you want as much light as possible when your plants just start to grow.
When you are in the market to choose a row cover, you need to decide if it's for the spring or fall season. In some cases, you might need more than one weight or possibly choose something that's in the middle of the road.
Frost Cloth on Plants
First off, there are two different widths of frost cloth, 83 inches, and 10 feet. Measure your garden beds to ensure you are getting the right width for what you need. Also, consider which vegetables you will be covering. If your vegetables are tall like kale, you will need the 10 feet cloth. If you have shorter vegetables like spinach, the 83-inch will be a good fit.
If the reason for getting frost cloth is to protect your plants from the cold, you need to ensure the fabric does not touch the plants or frost will head straight to your plants' leaves. To protect the plants you will need some kind of support to hold the row cover up and over the plants. This is just as important as choosing the correct width of the fabric. Knowing the vegetables you will be covering will help you decide what kind of support you are going to need.
These hoops are perfect for low-growing vegetables such as greens, turnips, or beets. In most cases, you can buy hoops that are ready-made from seed companies and they come in different lengths. Once you have the supports in place and the frost cloth is placed on top, you need to be able to secure it to the ground so it will not get blown around by the wind. This step will also keep critters out as they like to eat vegetables tucked underneath.
These staples are great for securing row covers and are very inexpensive. The downside, they are easy to lose in the garden because of their color which blends into the beds and paths so they can be difficult to find.
These pins are very popular with gardeners because they will not get lost in the garden due to their color. The downside, the red circular part on the top has a habit of snapping off after being used for a long time or can be easily stepped on. Even if the top is no longer there, these pins are perfectly usable. Another alternative, you can use pieces of wood, bricks, rocks, etc.
Frost Blanket on Small Tree
Now that we have discussed width, support options, when they should be installed and for what vegetables, when required, it's time to discuss how to use them.
First Step - Buy Your Row Cover
Used the topics above to decide which weight, width, and length you will need for your garden.
Second Step- Decide What Supports You Should Purchase
Again, make sure the cloth does not touch the plants. When frost sets in on the row cover it will burn the areas of the plant that are touching the material.
Third Step - Decide and purchase your pinsFourth Step - Choose The Garden Beds You Want To Cover
Take a stroll around your garden and see what you still have growing. Then decide what vegetables will be easy to cover and should be covered with frost cloth.
During the fall, I generally cover vegetables including salad greens, cilantro, lettuce, beets, arugula, and turnips, I don't worry about spinach, carrots, perennial herbs, Brussels sprouts, or kale along with any warm weather vegetables or herbs. The choice is still yours.
Fifth Step - Install Your Supports, Frost Cloth & Pins
Collect all your supplies and start working on constructing your frost protection in the areas you feel require frost protection. Also, this will be a first-time experience for extending your season and learning so much by doing so.
Over time, you will create your own techniques and system that will become second nature over the years.
Suggestions For Using Frost Cloth -
The upside, you will be able to water right through the frost cloth when you need to. If you live in a region that gets some welcomed rainfall, you will not have to water as often.
When it comes time to harvest your vegetables under the cloth, just remove a few pins and pull back an area of the row cover for easy access.
To ensure a longer life, don't leave your frost cloth in the garden throughout the entire winter. You should replace it with greenhouse plastic when the weather starts to get really cold and ugly. You can store the cloth in a tub or box in your garage or garden shed when you are not using it. You will discover this material will work with you for a very long time.. If stored properly, it should last for many years possibly for over 6 years.
If you happen to live in a very cold climate, such as zone 5, even using a row cover will not be enough, your plants will eventually die off when the temperatures slowly drop into the low 20s or teens or even much lower. After using the row cover for a few weeks, remove it and replace it with greenhouse plastic to increase your plants' lives through the winter months.
Using these easy techniques to extend the season, you should harvest from your garden 10 months out of the year.
Hopefully, this information will help you save plants from brutal cold weather and give you a healthy, happy crop.