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What happens when my plants freeze/are frosted on: my exp

Posted by elskunkito (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 19, 09 at 23:32

I answered the first thread on freezing a long time ago, but
my browser crashed when I pushed submit.
I did not have the heart to retype it all.
here is a summary of my findings for that thread, and the
2-3 that have popped up since.

Plan A: Planted Dec 22nd
Plan B: Planted Early Feb

I have experienced both freeze and frost this year.

executive summaries
Frost: if you started 'too early', not that a big deal. You lose some time, but it is recoverable.

Freeze: start over, even if you have to buy starts.
The devil is in the details. Even if things look OK, be very

I believe in starting starts WAY too early. Dec 22nd for set out mid May/June 1st.

gory details, frost:
Plants are ~6 weeks old.
There were some unseasonably warm days, 60ish day temps, in February so I put my plants outside.
An unplanned situation at work kept me until 11 PM.
Twice in a row this happened.
The plants got frosted on though outside temps didn't go below ~40.

Their leaves immediately wilted.
Of the 40 outside, about 90% survived with a set back of 1-2 weeks as they grew new leaves.
A few were totally unphased.

gory details: The Great Freeze of early Feb.
120 plants in a green house like thing.
I have a space heater to keep them warm at night.

A dog unplugs space heater on the night that temps drop to 18.
My primitive calculations lead me to believe the tomato
plants were exposed to 32 degree temperature for 1-2 hours.
The plants are for the most part frozen solid.

From memory, my notes are not available at this time. Numbers, times may be a bit skewed.

day 1:
10 outright die.
All but 10 odd plants leaves wilt upon thaw.
The 10 seem unphased. The 10 are are all unnamed early types.
Plant 40 new plants inside as Plan B.

week one:
I did not know, so contrary to advice given on the forum
at a later day, I cut all the wilted leaves off all the plants. I see no growth.

Week 2:
Some signs of life. Most plants have suckers starting to grow.
I think I have dodged a bullet.
10 more die with no growth.

week 3:
After some hopeful growth, 20 more die.
40 down, 80 more to go.
Most plants are starting to look like full recovery.

Week 4
Despite the good growth, 10 more give up the ghost
30 more odd plants grow, but very slowly.
40 seem to be doing pretty dang good.
My Plan B now 6 week old plants that were inside, never frozen,
are doing pretty good.

Week 5-7
the 30 slow ones fail to gain strength. they just sit there, mostly the same size. 5 a week die.

Week 8, today.
I have 30 decent, untrustworthy plants.
Throw out 10 more as dead.
40 more seem like they will never recover.

The good ones seem too mostly to have recovered, but have no where near the strength and vitality of the Plan B plants.

Last year the Plan A plants at this time had fantastic root systems and were often 3' tall.
The Plan B plants, while not nearly as good as last years early starts easily surpass this years Plan A plants
in every measure.

How many of the plan A plants will die in the weeks to come,
I have no idea. Is there a disease opportunity introduced
by the freezing? I don't know.
In hind sight, had I the seeds to start over early Feb, I would have tossed all the frozen ones.

In short, the plants will hang on and give you hope, and ultimately likely disappoint.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What happens when my plants freeze/are frosted on: my exp

  • Posted by anney Georgia 8 (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 20, 09 at 8:44


All that happened this year? That's awful. What are you going to do? Besides never forget THAT lesson?

RE: What happens when my plants freeze/are frosted on: my exp

  • Posted by suze9 z8b Bastrop Co., TX (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 20, 09 at 22:37

Sorry to hear about your problems, but what zone/state/climate are you in?

I have to say it sounds like you are just starting waaay too early. Now, I am a big believer in starting maybe a little early and having some large transplants, as I have found this works well for *my* particular area, but no way am I going to start seeds so early that seedlings would be ever be outside in 18F temps - IMO, that is just too darned early, regardless of where you are growing.

Yes, I got that the dog unplugged your heater, otherwise it would have been warmer, but that just still seems too early if you've got those sort of temps outside in the first place.

Just my opinion/experience. Larger transplants can work well for some, for sure - but at some point it is definitely possible to start too soon, to the point that you don't get any benefit, or are even set back because of it.

RE: What happens when my plants freeze/are frosted on: my exp

I hear you suze9.

I live in The Great PNW. About 20 miles S from Seattle.
Zone 7b I guess. Where is live is about 2 weeks behind Seattle weather wise.

Normal Feb temps are 40-45, night time 35ish.
The drop to 18 is somewhat unusual, even in Dec, Jan.
It's been an unusual year, again.
Snow in Feb is rare. March, almost unheard of.
This year the ?last? snow was beginning of April.
Today was 75.

> Larger transplants can work well for some, for sure -
> but at some point it is definitely possible to start
> too soon, to the point that you don't get any benefit,
> or are even set back because of it.

I am trying to find that point. Expense versus effort versus results weighted. This is my third year running of 'starting way too early'. This year was the earliest yet.
Last year I had my first ripe tom June 6th. That's a pretty major feat around here.
'Course the weather from June through July sucked, very cold, so the benefits were minimal. LOL.
Plants were HUGE, 10-15'tall by end of season, tomato count, ENORMOUS. Ripe tomatoes, not so much.

My starts are not normal put in a 1 gallon pot and let them
grow starts. I continually 'repot' them into larger and
larger containers. I bury the stem deeper each time.
They are essentially pre-trenched plants.
1' of stem or more buried by planting time with vigorous root growth all along it. Lat year the tops are 2-3' tall.
The plants suffer no delay/transplant shock when put into the ground from pots. Critical for the short season here.

Growing an inch a day, to growing an inch a day right after transplant.

This year, I am making cloches so my efforts are not lost
to the AGAIN expected cold june/july.

And by starting so soon, if things go wrong,
I have time for Plan B and Plan C starts.

RE: What happens when my plants freeze/are frosted on: my exp

  • Posted by suze9 z8b Bastrop Co., TX (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 21, 09 at 1:34

Ouch, the PNW! I see. You've got it even tougher than I do in my southern zone 8. There are (were?) some terrific threads that PNW growers used to post to here - packed with useful info, but from what I can tell, many of those folks no longer participate here. You might still be able to find some of them by doing a search on this forum on "PNW", that is, if they haven't dropped off...

I have had a very unusual and non-typical spring here myself, so can understand.

It still sounds like maybe you are starting just a little too early, or at least need to leave them inside under lights a little longer than you are currently doing.

I am basing that on how early I would start what I consider "extreme early" plants here, and it is a bit later than what you are doing - and I have quite a bit more leeway here with that sort of thing.

Also, please send me an e-mail to suanders [at] gmail [dot] com, if you would - thanks.

RE: What happens when my plants freeze/are frosted on: my exp

I'm from the hydro 4m and I'm currently testing a product from Florida that is supposed to protect plants down to 27 degrees F. I can't verify that as it never gets that cold where I live (San Diego, CA), but the manufacturer claims "nano" particles in the product are responsible for cold-weather protection as well as other claims.

I'm testing its ability to increase production, but won't have any numbers until around October of this year.

I'm leaving a link to the product "1227 Bio-Wash" (second from left) below:
Wouldn't it be cool if this solved the freezing problem?!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Bio-Wash

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