anyone else getting nervous about frost/freezing?

thistle5(z7 VA)April 3, 2007

It's hard to believe it, it's 70 something today, was probably 80 yesterday, but it's supposed to drop to the 30s by Friday night. I have a bunch of things in containers (Japanese maples, combos of perennials, dahlia & EE tubers, seeds), as well as things emerging & newly planted in the beds.

I'm going to run out & get some row covers, but what else can I do? bubble wrap, maybe? My eternal optimism about spring has failed me :), I knew I should have waited until Mother's Day on some of these things, but I'm weak...

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I just checked the weather here and 20s are predicted for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Anything up in the beds already will be fine Thistle. And if you added new perennials those should be ok too since they've been hardened off already. Can you just pull your pots of tenders into the cellar or garage at night? I have some seedlings hardening off that I'll probably drag in just to be safe. Row cover only adds a few degrees of protection so may not be worth it.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 2:05PM
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I'm not worried about anything that has come up in the beds but I did put out one "gamble" tomato plant that I'm going to cover. Low 30s predicted here for 3 nights. Brrrr....

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 2:09PM
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I am starting a mixed border against the fence and I just put in a viburnum, a hyrangea, some spirea, and a rose bush that I picked up at Meadows Farms the other day. They all have some initial leaves growing. Should I cover them? I am in Glen Burnie MD.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 3:25PM
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I can throw some leaf mulch over my lilies that are just coming up but I'm worried that my viburnums that are covered with buds for the first time since I planted them will get zapped. Maybe it's ok that I haven't pruned all my roses yet. I think their leaves may turn black.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 1:39AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

thistle, I detest waiting to plant out until May, but it's such a gamble that I force myself to wait. I did buy a phormium and a Boston Fern the other day - they were fresh off the truck and a great deal - they'll be hanging out in my living room for several days.

Anyone know about strawberry plants? I have some small potted ones that have blooms and small berries started. Should they come in?

sallymay, you should be OK. You might get a little cold damage on the leaves but the plants should be OK (Meadows gets their plants from NC usually, so they are several weeks ahead of ours here).

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 7:28AM
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Yes bring in the strawberries if you expect temps lower than 32 for blooms and 28 for buds (grew up on a PYO farm).

We used overhead irrigation for frost protection from ~5 to 8 am on cold mornings.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 8:29AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Yet again, I'm glad my Contractor Husband has done nothing on our house.

I'm pulling in a ton of plants I've purchased for myself and friends. They'll do fine on my unheated, plywood floors for a few days! [LOL]


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 10:11AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Most outdoor plants...viburnum, spirea, roses and such should be fine. More tender plants such as dahlia's should be brought in. And strawberries...IF they have buds should be brought in. The Boston fern should come inside as well.

Don't worry, it'll be spring again next week!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 4:54PM
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With the frost coming, I ran out and bought more plants; "On Sale" Veronicastrum and some lovely looking Virginia Bluebells. May not be the smartest move, but I so badly wanted them (and the other 300 things I've ordered).


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 8:27PM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

Well, I'm nervous & pulled in a bunch of plants, although it doesn't really feel all that cold outside. I moved into the garage a tray of newly purchased perennials not yet planted, & all the freshly planted pots of dahlias & EEs (they're newly planted, so I guess the danger is in the potting mix freezing & rotting the tubers?) I covered, w/ bubblewrap, fig trees, newly planted containers, containers too big to move. The Japanese maples are on their own, there are too many to wrap, & they made it through the winter just fine. I'm hoping this is going to be an overblown weatherman's scare-maybe they'll all hang in there...

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 9:09PM
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I did end up covering up the newly planted annuals, hopefully that will be enough, cause that's all they're going to get, especially over the weekend - the kids and I are going up to Vermont (where it is definitely STILL winter) and hubby will be here but working 12 hr shifts all weekend. Fingers crossed!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 10:17PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Thistle, talk to me about your Japanese Maples. I, too, have "too many to wrap." Probably an understatement, to those who know my obsessive collecting. [LOL]

I have lots of room in my living room if anyone is really stuck.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 8:42AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Don't panic!

Christine and Thistle, not to worry, your J maples will be fine. They're extremely hardy and in fact are able to survive weather conditions far more harsh than our late spring frost. They'll laugh it off.

This weather is not so unusual, really. Hardy plants CAN handle it fine, including Virginia bluebells. Just think about it...nurseries don't bring their plants in during cold snaps.

OTOH, if you have a peach tree in bloom, (as I do) you can worry. So...I may not get peaches this year but the trees will be just fine.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 10:43AM
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I also have a peach tree in bloom. Is there anything I can do to protect the blooms? I have some apple trees and a cherry tree as well, but they are blooming yet. Do I need to do anything to protect those?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 11:01AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Kim, your cherry and apple should be fine. Any flowers that are open on your peach tree--- if they're hit by frost will be lost, which means there will be no fruit from that flower. If the blossoms are just beginning to open, there will be more to follow those after the freeze. And many of those just budding will survive. There's not much you can do but wait and hope for the best.

Good luck to you~

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 12:28PM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

Well, so far, I think I've been worried about nothing, although tonight is set to be the coldest night. The JMaples look good, all the newly planted perennials seem fine, even the figs seem to have pulled through. I can't wait til temps warm up again, & it's finally spring...

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 3:58PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Just got the following from emai list of Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery in NC - should be helpful:

Dear PDN'ers:

Greetings from Plant Delights, where after two weeks of late spring
weather, we have once again plunged back into the grip of winter. For
nurserymen, it is the month of April that results in the most premature
grey hair accompanied by high blood pressure due to the worry about late
spring frosts. After two weeks of temperatures in the 80's, a cold front
has once again gripped our area, with predictions of five consecutive
nights of freezing temperatures and lows of 24-26 degrees F, which will
shatter our old low temperature records for most of those dates. Wheres
global warming when you really need it?

Since we havent uncovered the overwintering greenhouses yet, the
containerized nursery plants are fine, other than causing some heating
bills that we could have done without. Our primary concerns are for
plants in the display garden, where some arisaemas are in full flower
and early hostas are in full leaf. Our crew has spent over 24 man hours
covering tender vegetation with spun-bound polyester frost fabric (Im
glad nursery folks never got the memo that polyester went out of
fashion). Frost cloth is made for this purpose and can offer several
degrees of protection for tender plants in just such a situation. The
key to how much damage we will see is a combination of how cold the
temperatures drop and how long they stay there. Typically, frost clothes
can offer protection down to about 27 degrees F, but below that, cold
injury could still occur.

There is also the issue of trees and shrubs that have already developed
spring growth. While these are virtually impossible to protect with
frost cloth, they can be very sensitive to frost damage. Japanese maples
are one of many trees that are particularly sensitive and can be killed
outright by late spring freezes when they are at a susceptible stage of
growth. In such cases, there are really only two options for protection.
One is the application of irrigation, which, while the water is freezing
actually releases heat that protects the plants. This technique is most
commonly used on field grown crops such as strawberries. The downside is
that water must be applied at the proper rate and the application must
continue continuously until the temperatures rise above freezing. The
other option is to rent kerosene space heaters and simply heat up the
night air around the plant. This is similar to the smudge pots that are
used in Florida orange orchards when frosts are imminent. These heaters
can usually be rented from stores who specialize in the rental of
construction equipment. If you would like to know more of the technical
details about water application to protect plants, the following NCSU
website is quite useful: .

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 5:46PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

And from Carroll Gardens in Westminster, MD:

Because of the cold weather forecast this weekend for much of the East Coast, we are being inundated with calls about plant protection.

The flowers on some plants are going to freeze. Our early spring will not be as beautiful as it otherwise would have been. The flowers on crocus, cherries and magnolias will almost certainly be lost. So if you want to enjoy them I suggest cutting your most beautiful spring flowers, especially the tree branches, and bringing them indoors. The open daffodil flowers should be fine; although some might suffer damage right at ground level and fall over. These that do can be cut and brought indoors next week.

I doubt that there will be any permanent damage to most established plants because temperatures have been so cold in February and March, plants are less advanced than usual at this time. There may be some burn off of new growth. But even if the temperature drops to 20 degrees, the plants will quickly regenerate. Two plants are of particular concern: peonies whose foliage has started to emerge and Japanese Red Maples if their foliage has started to unfurl. These plants do not regenerate easily and should be protected. Additionally you need to protect plants with new growth that have been planted this spring. These often were grown in greenhouses or farther south. This new foliage needs to be protected and these plants may be so far advanced that they may perish if left unprotected. Newly planted truly dormant bare root roses should not require protection. However newly planted roses (and other "dormant" bareroot shrubs) with tender white or light green shoots require protection.

The best way to protect plants is to cover them with an old bed blanket or other heavy cloth held up with stakes and secured to the ground with rocks. Do not use plastic. Clear plastic can be particularly harmful. In some cases it may be easier to dig up a few container grown plants and temporarily move them into the garage, shed or basement.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 5:47PM
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dgs9r(z7 Baltimore, MD)

Eeeks! I have a Jap Maple TREE! How do I cover a TREE? Most of it is still buds, though a few buds have started to unfurl.

Will the forsythia blooms also die? I better bring in some branches to remember them by.

There's something looking like iris leaves sticking out about 6-8 inches. Some of the tubers have gotten "raised" above ground level, and you can see them. Should these be covered?


    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 7:45PM
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I have loads of flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs that will probably freeze, nothing I can do but I've been tossing a tarp over some flats of seedlings at night. So far they look alright. I had to bring in over 200 containers of tropical plants which was a major pain in the butt but I expected to have to bring the tropicals back in a few times over the spring. I just didn't expect such cold temps. I figured we'd have a few nights in the 30's with a bit of frost, not a hard freeze!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 10:14PM
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I brought my seedling flats in Thursday night. Everything else is on it's own and it's snowing here now.

Don't worry about the mature japanese maple dgs9r. Especially if you are in Baltimore city you should have a great deal of protection there from the heat of buildings and pavement. The iris corms do need to be slightly exposed, so that's normal.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 6:32AM
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Thanks, folks, for all the info regarding protecting plants during this cold snap. Reading the posts goaded me into action last night. We had been out of town and returned on Friday after dark. I went out with a flashlight and a pile of blankets and towels and covered my peonies. Also tossed something over the echinacea, not knowing if it's tender or not. Now I'm just waiting for the sun to come out and I'll go out and take inventory. Again, thanks for all the info! I'm so happy I've found this forum!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 10:00AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

karyn, 200 containers of tropicals??? And I thought I was nuts! Do they go in the ground, in pots outdoors, overwinter in your house? I want info, and photos!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 12:30PM
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dgs9r(z7 Baltimore, MD)

Thanks for the replies! Thanks, Cynthia, for letting me know about the iris corms; I am reassured they are supposed to show a little above ground.

Well, after all the nail-biting, we did not get any snow! All the flowering trees are still flowering!

There's some stray flurries in the air right now; hope they go away.

Hope no one lost anything to Old Man Frost.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 2:00PM
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beth_b_kodiak(zone 5a)

Saturday we had 3 inches of snow here on the shore but not really TOO cold. Then, last night it went down to 20 when the previous record low for the date was 25. That was TOO cold and it caught me a bit by surprise. They had predicted "About 30".
Oh well it has to be getting better soon.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 4:42PM
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