To water/not to water before a freeze

laura1(9aTpa,FL)December 12, 2009

I was lurking around on another forum and Al, who seems to know his stuff, says not to water before a freeze. Al lives in the far north if that makes a difference but he made a pretty good scientific case why not to water. At least I think it was a good case because I didn't understand a lot of it!! hehe

SO...why have I always heard to make sure your plants are well watered before a freeze???

Here is a link that might be useful: Watering trees before a freeze

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Actually what I heard was that you can run your sprinklers during a freeze. The freezing of water is an exothermic process so small amounts of heat are released as the water in air and ground freezes. The only drawback is that sprinklers waste a ton of water.

In general you don't want to water your plants during cold temperatures since they are transpiring less and don't need their roots to be sitting in water. In-ground plants in central-southern florida may be exception since weather can warm up enough after a freeze warning.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 10:58AM
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When it's cold, the plants are neither thirsty or hungry; they're busy doing everything possible to prevent water loss (what we see as wilt) and have reduced the amount of energy normally expended for growth. The simple answer is no, don't water before a freeze.

However, once the temperature starts to return to normal, a good dousing will work wonders; just don't flood 'em.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 11:28AM
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According to several experts that given presentations to The Tropical Fruit Club, they say that it is very important to water 48 hours before a freeze. This helps the plant tolerate the stress better. However, it is important to NOT water just before a freeze because the plant will have a higher concentration of water. The frozen water forms ice crystals inside the plant, which is what causes the damage.

Using water as a source of heat is not a good idea unless you really know what you are doing because if you do it wrong you will supercool the plants which will cause more damage than if you did nothing.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 4:31PM
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This year I am ready for the cold. Bought a spray-on called Freeze Pruf that says it will increase cold-hardiness by 9 degrees. Also picked up some Xmas lights to drape around my cold-sensitive fruit trees-supposed to produce some warmth-never tried it before but this year I will.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 12:49PM
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Number one rule - pay no attention to gardening advice from any other state . Florida is different - often very different .
From UF :

"Watering landscape plants before a freeze can help protect plants. A well watered soil will absorb more solar radiation than dry soil and will reradiate heat during the night. This practice elevated minimum night temperatures in the canopy of citrus trees by as much as 2°F (1°C). However, prolonged saturated soil conditions damage the root systems of most plants."

In Florida , it will often warm up quickly each day in winter to warm the moist soil . Then at night - IF it freezes - there is a small amount of heat given off . 2 degrees may not sound like much but it can make or break whether a plant survives .

From UF :

"Plant water needs should be checked after a freeze. The foliage could be transpiring (losing water vapor) on a sunny day after a freeze while water in the soil or container medium is frozen. Apply water to thaw the soil and provide available water for the plant. Soils or media with high soluble salts should not be allowed to dry because salts would be concentrated into a small volume of water and can burn plant roots."

I am more inclined to trust information from Florida rather than Michigan based on science . Nothing personal !

Here is a link that might be useful: Cold Protection of Ornamental Plants

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 4:01PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Gatormom, thanks for posting that very helpful info!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 5:49PM
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Thanks GM that is just what I was looking for! (I guess I wasn't thinking or I would have searched for it myself-duh!) Now I have something with some teeth that tells about watering before a freeze. Might not be true up north but it is true here.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 8:42PM
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I saw freeze warnings predicted for Monday . Yikes ! As gardengrl says - time for the bedsheet boogie .
The good news in that is the mosquito population might finally lessen . At least we do not have to worry about freezing conditions lasting months and months like up north . An hour or two of 30's and we'll soon pop back up to the 60's or 70's .

    Bookmark   December 15, 2009 at 6:45AM
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Number one rule - pay no attention to gardening advice from people who write books and papers about gardening. In Florida, every square mile, perhaps every square foot, is different. What works for a student in a controlled environment is a world of difference from what's going to happen in your backyard. Practical experience is what makes you a successful gardener.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 6:13AM
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