Our Mission:

The Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association, located in Rock County, Wisconsin, is the 42nd association of the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program.

This blog is used to distribute timely information to association members regarding volunteer opportunities, MGV highlights, and other social tid bits.

Horticulture related information is to be directed to the Horticulture Educator or the Plant Health Advisors.

This blog is not for garden related questions.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Will there be frost?

The weather has been unseasonably warm, and the plants in my yard are loving it.

My heritage lilac bush is covered with buds. My miniature forsythia is bursting with buds and tiny green leaves. Irises are up. My rhubarb is nearly 10" tall. My peony is shooting out of the ground. Stella D'Oro is popping up. My Callery pear is covered with clusters of white blossoms and the two Sugar Time crabs on the terrace are ready to pop. My raspberries are covered with leaves, as are the currant bushes. To clobber a song title, spring is bustin' out all over. So, is this the real thing? The calendar says it's spring, but it's about five to six weeks early, plant-growth-wise.

When spring arrives ahead of schedule should we assume it's going to stay, or should we prepare for the worst? Me, being a died-in-the-wool chicken, would opt for being prepared. Sure, sometimes an early spring will glide into summer with no problems, no freezes, but can we count on that this year? Who knows?

So, with that ambiguity in mind, what should we do to prepare? Well, sheets, floating row covers, a fine water mist, can all help save our precious plants, but what else can we do?

A publication from Cornell University called Understanding Frost explains the mechanism of frost and what to do to keep it from harming plants. Note - most of the information deals with fall frost, but you can use it to understand spring frosts as well.

For example, were you aware there are two kinds of frost? Yup. Advective and radiation. Who knew?

Then there's the dreaded invisible black frost.

Did you know moist soil is about 5 degrees warmer than dry?

Covering plants can give 2 to 5 degrees of protection.

While I would not normally recommend information from outside our plant hardiness zone, I found a great fact sheet from the University of Arizona. While targeted at citrus growers, it gives good solid information on the mechanism of frost, good ways to avoid frost by choosing frost resistant cultivars, planting in the right place, and much more.

Frost Protection AZ1002

Visit Gardening in Wisconsin: Garden Calender for March, 2012 for frost dates, tips on frost damage prevention and other spring gardening tips.

Read up. Research. If there is an early frost you'll be ready. If not, you'll have learned something valuable. Win, win.

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