How to cover your garden from a freeze. Or how not to.

As the weather warms, I would say this is no longer an issue this year. But then I talked to family last night in Baltimore. It was 60 degrees yesterday and the weather man was calling for snow this weekend. You just never know.

My weapons.

A few weeks ago I stood in the same predicament. Thank goodness I ran into my gardening neighbor— the retired professor from West Virginia (who always updates me on the weather.)

“We’re going to have a freeze again tomorrow. I’ll be out here covering my garden at sunset.” He looked over at my cabbage and the last row of collard greens— the only things left. “Will you?”

So, my husband was out at sea and I’d already destroyed 1/2 the garden in the last freeze. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. 32 degrees would head in after sunset. I armed myself with a sheet, two tomato stakes, and a bag of clothespins.

I’ll show you my version vs the West Virginian’s version.

Guess who won?

My version:


Yeah, this wasn’t going to work. I didn’t have enough sheets. I hightailed it to the Goodwill across the street, pretty much cut in line, telling the woman behind the counter and the woman in front of me that I had to beat the sunlight, and threw the money on the counter. She didn’t even ring me up, she checked my prices and told me, “Go!” I arrived at the garden right as the sun dipped below the horizon.

The West Virginian professor struggled with the sheet of plastic for his garden as I pulled up. He shook his head. “No, no, Jennifer. Your sheets are up too high. I have some boxes.” He miraculously pulled from his car just enough boxes to cover every plant in my row. We pulled the sheets over and tucked them in with wood and the garden wheel barrow to keep them from blowing away. Then I helped him pull the plastic sheet as big as a swimming pool over his garden, and we stood laughing in the dark. “I think we made it!” he said.
West Virginia’s attempt:

First the boxes.

Then the sheets.

It worked! Good as gold. The next morning I pulled everything off in the bright sunlight. The greens stood up and thanked me.
The moral of the story? Always trust a West Virginian. Or a retired college professor. Thanks John!

14 responses to “How to cover your garden from a freeze. Or how not to.

  1. LOL! You’re genius and you had me hanging onto the end of the seat to see if you’d get back before sundown. That was fine writing, thank you and I’m thrilled you managed to save your greens. Can you grow broad beans over there? They can survive a frost with no hardship πŸ˜‰

  2. Kinda funny, Jennifer, “The Great Race”! We don’t plant stuff in our area until after the danger of frost (May 15th!), so that’s that. However, I’ve covered mums and other flowers in the fall, to save from an early frost. Armed with boxes, sheets from the thrift store, clothes pins, tarps, sheets of plastic, buckets, etc. The yard looked like ??? Finally, I just decided to let it all go–if God wants to send a frost, then the flowers that can’t handle will just have to go.

  3. sounds like my late frost attempts, (and it works)
    i use straw or shredded paper banked alongside each plant, with a handful of dirt sprinkle atop to guard against the wind..
    cotton sheets always win over any plastic product..they insulate and breathe and do not conduct the cold on tender leaves..
    i collect rocks to hold the hems of the cotton ‘skirts’ for the tomatoes.
    here where only bulbs dare poke their heads out yet, i still have some kale and cabbage from last year, pitiful yet alive.
    i hope that you continue to write horticultural suspense…

  4. Grin…With my Oklahoma winds, covering a few plants with boxes is a No Go event.
    Unless that box will hold up a 30 pound concert block, that box will be in the next county by sun up..

  5. What we do to protect our veg!

  6. Having a real good laugh! Always trust a… I think having the heart to preserve the garden made all things play out fine! Lovely post!

  7. That’s awesome. I used painter’s dropcloths in an early frost last winter up here in Maine, but I love the cardboard boxes because there’s no work.

  8. My parents always use plastic bottles to cover it with, but I guess it wouldn’t work with a big head of cabbage.

  9. Thank God for good neighbors.

  10. @Mrs. Green–thank you! Your comment made me happy. Broad beans? I’ll have to look into that!

    @Joy–you finally threw in the towel, yeah? I bet your mums were beautiful. You’re right. It’s best to plant after the fear of frost lingering in the air, but these were from the fall garden—still going strong. Collards are pretty robust. Even after the two freezes they’ve been through, their leaves were only spotted. I still could have eaten them, though they were “damaged.”

    @ Hortilculture supsense! ha! That made me laugh.

    @pobept—No boxes? Oh no! Your comment made me laugh about the boxes being in the next county by sun up. What do you guys use out there in the windy state?

    @Bridget—ain’t that the truth? πŸ™‚

    @Teeceecouncel—maybe you’re right. Determination had a lot to do with it. I about knocked the lady over in line in front of me. Felt bad about it all the way to the garden, and then the plants took over all thoughts. πŸ™‚

    @Hunting–the drop cloths aren’t too heavy? They aren’t supposed to touch the plants, right? That’s what I’ve always heard. Just suspend above them. Suspending isn’t so easy….!! πŸ™‚

    @Mom Photographer—I tried to image the plastic bottles over any of my plants. They’re all so big! LOL! Made me laugh. That was cute.

    @ Kelly—Amen to that! πŸ™‚

  11. I live in Minnesota and we usually have winter at this time of the year. This winter has been more like Spring, except for yesterday. We got 5 inches of snow, or I should say a mix of rain and snow. I can’t wait for it to warm up so we can start gardening again.

    • @ Katelynmariah–that’s a lot of snow! Visited your site and your lovely galleries. Couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment. I wondered what the story was behind the bee maidens holding the green jewel.

      @ Sreekumar—your comment made me smile. πŸ™‚
      Made me feel like a “real farmer.”

  12. A real farmer looks after his plants like his kids. The poor thing cannot send an SOS so it is our duty to ensure its welfare during adversities. Well written, I appreciate.

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