Maybe pretty chilly mid-week next week?

wxcrawler(7a)April 21, 2014

Hi everyone,

I was hesitant to post this, because it is still very questionable. However, the European model is showing a pretty good shot of cold air down the Plains in about 8 days. It is very much in doubt how far south the truly cold air will come, and there isn't a lot of support yet from other models. But the current output from the European would likely cause some frost in a large part of Oklahoma.

I'm not posting the because I think it is going to happen. I did it more to recommend you don't put away any of the cold weather protection. Or if you did, just be prepared to bring it back out some time next week.....just in case.

Also, Sunday could be a really bad severe weather day in central/eastern Oklahoma. If the current model trends hold, there could be lots of fireworks.

I'll try to post updates in the next few days.


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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Thanks Lee! I noticed on the weather channel forecast this morning that next Monday/Tuesday nights could dip to the upper 30's. I did put out warm stuff stuff I'll keep the blankets close by.

Thanks foe keeping us informed.
Edit now it looks like Tuesday and Wednesday.

This post was edited by mksmth on Mon, Apr 21, 14 at 21:54

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:49PM
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    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Nice! I may get some brassicae, after all. I don't want a freeze, but I'm glad to have a spring!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:17PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Thanks for the warning.

I hope that the Euro is wrong, but fear it isn't.

I have row cover and I know how to use it, so....

Mother Nature, bring it on!

We're Oklahomans. We don't scare easily.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:35PM
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Most of the other models are now on board with this for next week. It's too early to say how cold the mornings will get, but frost is a pretty good bet.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:48AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Lee, It is so good and so much appreciated that you posted this warning for us, and I appreciate so much that you give us advance warning when the models start hinting at weather that will not be garden-friendly. Now I can make strategic decisions about what to plant where so that I don't plant more plants than I have frost blanket to cover.

I already have caged the tomato plants formerly covered by low tunnels because they were at the height and width where I had to cage them now or they wouldn't be caged at all. I also have caged 14 short rows ( 3 to 4 plants per row) of tomato plants that I planted last week and this week at the east end of the garden. Covering them will be a logistical nightmare. I can do it, but it will take a lot of row cover and I am not going to yank out all those cages that already are staked into the ground. However, I didn't cage the 16 tomato plants that I mudded into the ground last night, so I won't cage them for another couple of weeks and I can use the low tunnel from the first tomato bed to make the more recent bed of black and pink tomato varieties easy to cover. I also won't cage the rows of paste tomato plants I am planting today, so you have saved me from a lot of work that would have made covering up plants much more difficult. Thank you for that!

I am getting used to having frost through at least the first week in May, but it is getting old at the same time. Our weather, and the climate that produces it, is getting worse and worse. I have a friend who jokes that you can get a frost in southern OK even on the 4th of July, but I don't really expect we'll ever actually see that happen.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:23AM
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wulfletons(Zone 7a)

I have a quick question about covering plants foe frost protection...when I put my agribon over the tomatoes and potatoes, is it okay for the row cover to touch the leaves or do I need to keep it from touching?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:20AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

It is okay for the Agribon to touch the leaves. In fact, that is how it is designed to work---hence, the common name of "floating row cover" for such agricultural fabrics.

With the lighterweight fabrics like Agribon-19, I let it float. I believe the weight of Agribon-19 is 0.55 ounce, so it is so light it doesn't need support. The two types of heavier weight frost blanket I have weigh 2.5 oz and 3.0 oz., so with smaller or more delicate plants they need hoops or something similar for support or they can crush some of the plants.

With the heavier weight frost blanket type that I have that gives at least 10 degrees of frost protection, I like to use PVC or electrical conduit hoops to suspend the fabric over the plants, but that is because of its very heavy weight. With the midweight one I have that gives 6-8 degrees of protection, I just let it float this last time because I was using my hoops for the heavier stuff. It floated just fine, but I had it over fairly well established plants. I might have used something to suspend it if I was covering newly-sprouted seedlings that were only an inch or two tall.

The agricultural fabrics used as row covers protect the plants by holding in the heat, so they work best if you cover the plants in the afternoon while the ground is really warm and there's lots of heat to capture and hold in underneath the row cover.

If a person was using a non-textile material like sheet plastic or tarps. those would need to be suspended over the plants without touching them. This is because those sorts of plastic conduct the cold directly to any plant parts touching them.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:55AM
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I'm a little bit in panic mode now, trying to figure out what I'm going to do if it does get that cold. Since I've always grown in containers and had a small greenhouse, I could just move everything in there when it got cold. That saved me lots of times last Spring. Now that I've got my raised beds built and I've planted everything, I'm in "uncharted" territory. And I am ill-prepared.

It seems like my best (easiest) bet may be to use some PVC for some quick hoop houses over each bed. I'd like to get some Agribon as a cover, but I can't find anywhere around Tulsa that sells it. And I don't think I'd get it in time if I ordered it online. I see that our Home Depot has The Planket, but I'm not sure how good that is. I figured I could put a lamp in each hoop house to keep it a little warmer in there. Is that a good idea?

Hopefully the European model will come to it's senses and we'll just have a little cooldown, but nothing major. Then my panic will be for naught. We can hope!


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:35PM
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I planted my peppers and tomatoes under a couple of hoop houses at the end of March. During the last freeze I heated one with a heat lamp and a halogen work light that puts off quite a bit of heat. I did the same last year quite a few times. Lots of people use old Christmas tree lights to heat their cold frames and hoops houses. A quick internet search will reveal quite a few innovative ways.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:08PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Well, let's not panic. We can figure this out if all of us put our heads together.

Before I started using floating row cover, I used methods like those mentioned by OSUEngineer. It is really easy to make small hoop houses or low tunnels. I just hammered pieces of rebar into the ground on either side of the row I wanted to protect and slid the PVC pipe over the rebar to form the hoop. The rebar holds it in place really well even if there is fairly strong wind. Then I put 6 mm clear plastic (from Lowe's or Home Depot) over the hoops, used rocks, bricks, lumber, etc. to hold down the edges securely, etc.

I added 5-gallon buckets filled with water to absorb heat during the day and release it at night if really cold weather was expected. It is amazing how well that works. You also can use the heat lamps that feed stores, and some big box stores as well, sell for people to use in their barns, garages, chicken coops, doghouses, etc. to keep animals warm on a cold night.

The old Christmas lights (I don't remember if they were C-7s or C-9s) from when I was a kid in the 1960s/1970s are great because they put out a lot of heat, but if you don't have any stored in the attic or have any relatives who have old lights stored somewhere, they are hard to find nowadays, and the modern-day lights are super-efficient and don't put off heat. The Christmas lights must be placed carefully so they don't make contact with anything they can ignite because they do get hot.

This year, when I planted tomato plants in March, I put a five-gallon bucket of water on the north side of each plant. The water absorbed heat during the day and released it at night. Those buckets were there, day and night, whether needed or not, until this week when I removed all of them from the beds so I could cage the tomato plants. I was at the point where if I didn't cage them now, they'd be too big to cage later on. If I have to, I can carry all those buckets back to the garden and refill them with water. I'm waiting for the forecast to stabilize before I decide what to do. On nights when frost or freezing temperatures were likely, I threw frost blankets over the hoops and secured them to the ground, and then removed them a day or two later after the cold weather threat had diminished. I just removed my hoops from the tomato beds a few days ago because the cages are taller than the hoops, but I still can cover the caged plants with row cover if I have to, and I'll use the hoops on additional tomato and pepper plants that I have planted in the last week or so.

Plastic alone isn't enough if you are dipping down close to freezing, but with a heat source inside of it, it should work. In really cold weather, I used to drag out our sleeping bags (the type you use for camping), old comforters, blankets, etc., and throw those over the low tunnels made of plastic, just for extra insulation.

Once I covered a whole double row of tomato plants that were about 3' tall with a very large boat tarp borrowed from my son. That was back before I started using row cover. The tomato cages were 6' tall, so I was able to let the tarp rest on the tops of the cages since the plants weren't up to the tops of the cages yet, and his tarp had grommets so I could stake the tarp to the ground kind of like a tent. It looked like a giant had pitched a pup tent in our garden, but it kept the frost off the plants.

For keeping the frost off the plant foliage, if y'all are staying above freezing but frost is a serious threat, you can use any kind of textile fabric. I have used sheer curtains, tablecloths, blankets, quilts, towels, etc. My favorite thing now is a pile of moving blankets I bought on sale one year from Harbor Freight. I have 7 of them. They are fairly thick. I always use frost blankets as my basic protection but add the blankets if we are dropping into the mid- to lower-20s. It takes a lot more effort to protect plants from freezing air than from mere frost, obviously.

You probably don't hoard 5-gallon buckets and kitty litter buckets/jugs like I do, but maybe you have some sort of containers around that would hold water.

Or, if you're coming to the Spring Fling at Paula's house on Saturday, I can bring you some frost blanket material on loan and then you can mail it back to me after you feel sure there's not going to be any more cold weather surprises. The kind I have gives 10 degrees of protection. I've used it for two years now and have been very pleased with it so far.

Last year, when I first ordered a roll of the new 10-degree frost blanket, it arrived at my house 4 or 5 days after I ordered it. In fact, it arrived one day before we were expecting freezing temperatures. This year, when I ordered two more rolls, one arrived in less than a week, and the other one took about 10 days. Because it already is Tuesday, even if you ordered any right now, I don't think it could arrive on time. I'd be happy to loan you some if we can work out the logistics of getting it from me to you.

If all else fails, look at the methods used by orange growers----could you use a giant fan blowing on your plants to keep enough air movement going that frost wouldn't settle on the plants? We have a big fan on wheels in our garage that puts out a lot of air and I think it would work in a small garden, though not necessarily in a really large one. If you have a space heater and an outdoor-rated extension cord, you might be able to put a space heater inside a hoophouse type high tunnel or low tunnel and keep enough heat to protect the plants.

Remember that two layers of protection are better than one. If incredibly cold weather threatens, sometimes I put one layer of row cover directly on the ground over the plants and then suspend another layer over hoops.

Are you expecting freezing air temperatures or only frost or both?


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:40PM
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This will sound a little silly, but if we are talking frost protection and not actual temps at 32 or below, I have just used unfolded pizza boxes placed on top of my tomato cages for the night. The cardboard covers all of the plant and it is good for insurance on calm nights when the low is supposed to get into the 30s. I save the boxes all year and once danger of frost is over I use them as weedblock mulch along rows. There have been times when uncovered ones were killed back but the covered ones never were, as long as the temp stays above freezing.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:29AM
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Weather Underground is now showing a low of only 43 and Channel 9 is showing 39. NWS 7 day doesn't go out far enough yet. Maybe it won't get that cold.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 9:12AM
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I appreciate you talking me down from the ledge. LOL My panic really was more about my strategy in covering my beds, and the fact that I hadn't really planned it out. I have 2 4' x 11' beds that are separated by a 2-3' path. In my head, I was picturing finding a way to include both in one "house". Then I could throw my little heater in there and heat it all. Then I started looking at the available dimensions of row cover, and didn't find anything quickly that would work with those dimensions. That's when I started to get a little worried. I think I'm going to have to cover each bed separately, which will be okay. I just need to figure out if I'm going to build PVC hoops over them, or just use the tops of the cages for now.

I will not be at the Spring Fling. My parents are visiting from Alabama this weekend, and we've got all kinds of things going on. Hopefully, I'll get to come next year.

Looking at this morning's models, it looks like the ECMWF has backed off a little on the severity of the cold. It's no longer predicting a freeze across Oklahoma. But it's still showing a pretty good chance of a frost......possibly for several days. We are going to be stuck in this below normal pattern for a while. The GFS also shows us blocked into this below normal pattern. It just doesn't get us quite so cold. If the GFS is right, we'll have several cool mornings in the 40's. If the Euro is right, we'll have several cooler mornings of 35-42.

I'm hoping the GFS wins this battle. I guess it's a good sign that the Euro is trending up slightly. But I remember all the times this winter where the cooler Euro was more correct.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:18AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Lee thanks for the update. I was just about to say that no weather forecasts that I check are showing any real cold and was going to ask for your opinion. I hope we stay above 40


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:51AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I have quite a few sheets purchased at yard sales at a cheap price and also sheer curtain panels. The sheer curtains are used for a little shade over things like lettuce after transplanting. Beware of sheets if you have dogs; they will lay on them and run with them very fun to pull off your plants.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:56AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome. When you used the word 'panic', I wondered if I should be panicking too. I'm glad to hear the answer is no. : ) It is a great relief that the Euro is backing off a bit on the freezing temperatures. Let's hope that the chances of frost start dropping too.

I hope you have a great visit with your parents, and I hope the weather behaves itself so y'all can have a good time together without having to run for shelter.

I can handle frost. Freezes worry me, even with row cover, but mostly because all the trees, shrubs, perennials, etc. are emerged and leafed out and I cannot cover the whole yard. My hollies (old and well-established) suffered massive damage when we went to 28 degrees, and normally that wouldn't happen. However, we'd been having a lot of days in the mid-80s or warmer, and nights in the 50s-60s, and the hollies had lots of new growth that wasn't conditioned to sub-freezing temperatures. On the other hand, Johnson Grass growing outside my garden fence and attempting to creep into the garden froze back to the ground. Of course it isn't dead, but at least it has been set back for a while.

For future reference, to find row cover and frost blanket fabric in large enough sizes to cover anything you can envision, you can visit the website of Agricultural Solutions. That's where I find my frost blanket. I bought it in 12' widths, but they have it available in many widths---some of which are so huge that they clearly are aimed at commercial farms. Most places have it in only more narrow widths. I like the 12' width because you can cover a row of fairly tall (well, fairly tall for early in the season) plants with it. If you buy a roll they have it folded in half on the roll, which helps keep the shipping charges lower since it is a box a little over 6' long instead of 12' long.

The very first row cover fabric I bought around a decade ago was 6' wide which sounds good, but really isn't. I was using it on 4' wide beds, so I couldn't cover a whole bed with it once the plants were any taller than 11-12". I've discovered that with row cover, wider is better, particularly since I grow in raised beds that are mostly 4' wide and often I have some plants that are knee-high to waist-high by the time the last threat of frost has passed in the first week of May.

If the strong storms the next few days don't pound our plants into the ground or carry them away with the wind, we all might get to begin the month of May with gardens that are in pretty good shape.

I like the idea of cooler temperatures. The longer we stay cool in Spring, the better the cool-season crops will produce, and the better the fruit set on the tomato plants.

I did look at my Accuweather forecast the last couple of days since it goes out farther than the NWS forecast on the Norman webpage and farther than our local TV forecast, and it showed my lowest low next week of 43. Today that's been raised to 45.

I'm starting to feel a lot better about next week's weather, but that doesn't mean I will become complacent and stop watching the forecast. I'll be watching it like a hawk.


Here is a link that might be useful: One Source for Large Sizes of Row Cover

This post was edited by okiedawn on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 12:09

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:11AM
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I hear ya about the storms. Last year my onions took a beating from a hail storm. This year they look the best they ever have. At this point in the year, I'm more worried about loosing something to hail than a freeze.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Hey I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for the pre-freeze advice on my sons little lettuce last week. I should have expressed my gratitude on the thread but I wanted to say thanks now while the topic was at hand. I learned a lot just by that thread and this one on row covering. And Dawn- I never knew that plastic conducted cold. I would have damaged something for sure if you hadn't explained that! Thank you all again for the wealth of info you so willingly share! It saved my sons first garden attempt and he was so thrilled to discover them still safe after we uncovered them! I was glad we got to delay that hard garden lesson a little longer!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Guess I'm all in. I'll be out of town when it looks like this stuff could hit.
Worst case, I'll scramble and replant if I can find what I want. Ironic, I just cleared out the greenhouse, preparing for a few days away. Gave away about 150 tomato plants. Good riddance, I thought.
Gotta love gardening!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 4:05PM
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Oh shoot! Well, prepare for the worst and hope for the best I guess..

Lee- Thank you, as usual you are a "life-saver" ;) My garden appreciates you!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:35AM
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Hi everyone,

It appears the European model has come to it's senses today. LOL. It's now forecasting low-mid 40's for morning lows next week, which is similar to the GFS. Although not ideal for our gardens, we can handle that. Of course this is subject to change, as I've seen either model suddenly go back to being cold after warming for a couple of days. Hopefully this is not the case this time.

Now....everyone keep a good eye on the storms on Saturday (west) and Sunday (east). They could be bad.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:47AM
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TotemWolf(7 SWOK-Greer County)

Lots of rain and no tornadoes please


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:36PM
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Looks like the weather models today have shifted Sunday's activity east so the Tulsa area is now predicted to maybe be skipped by both the severe weather and most of the rain. We'll see what they say tomorrow. I'll trade the rain for the severe stuff. Better neither than both.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:47PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I was glued to the TV late yesterday afternoon and all evening watching the tornadoes track across our region. My heart goes out to all affected by those terrible tornadoes. We got really lucky this weekend, but the luck didn't hold for Quapaw, OK, and for lots of other folks in nearby states.

Y'all keep an eye on on Tues., Wed., and Thurs. weather. We have temps in the 30s currently forecast for some areas for those nights. I hope this will be the last time our warm-season plants will have to shiver through a cold night this season.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:38AM
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