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Small Scale Freeze Protection for the Urban Gardener, or Micro-Micro-Climates

 
pollinator
Posts: 142
Location: South Carolina 8a
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As an urban gardener in the southern United States, I seldomly have to deal with sub freezing temperatures.
Because of this, I took a chance and planted Purple of Sicily Cauliflower and Romanesco Broccoli, along with collards, garlic, and a few lettuces.

The Cauliflower and Broccoli already died in my large plot out of town, but due to some more intensive gardening, it is thriving in my backyard garden.
I have collected bricks and rocks from people who put them on the curb for garbage collection. I started stacking these around my more tender plants to harvest the sun's energy and provide nighttime heating.
I have collected countless truckloads of mulch that people have very kindly bagged and placed beside the road for me to collect instead of the city garbage service.
I put out mulch the other day when it was warm, in hopes of holding in that heat.
I have even rummaged through recycling bins for gallon jugs to make mini greenhouses.
Tonight I am going to have to break out the sheets and blankets as it could drop below 23 degrees.

What other methods does everyone use for frost protection in the urban garden?
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: Gulf of Mexico cajun zone 8
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In addition to things already mentioned I also like rocks for making micro climates. Had great success keeping broccoli alive through southern winters with them. I've seen them endure several consecutive days of being covered in ice. I think keeping the soil somewhat warmer than freezing is the key. Built my first tall hugelkultur this year & that is showing great promise too. Enough that I'll probably transplant a fig tree to the south side of that this spring. Figs seem less tolerant of cold than brassicas.  
 
Hamilton Betchman
pollinator
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Location: South Carolina 8a
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Here are some photos.
20191219_114021.jpg
backyard garden
backyard garden
20191219_114013.jpg
mini greenhouses
mini greenhouses
 
gardener
Posts: 570
Location: Central Texas
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One thing which has helped me a ton has been journaling my observations of the property through all four seasons. I was amazed at how much some of the microclimates changed once the trees lost their leaves and the wind started coming from the north more often. Some of the spots I expected to be too shady in the shorter days this winter are actually getting good sun exposure due to the open canopies of the bare trees. I transplanted some kale & collards to some of those spots and, I'm hoping, they'll keep going until July (or later) since the canopy will provide them with shade as the trees leaf out & temps get hotter.
I've also had good results with the cinder blocks, like you have in the first photo. I've planted herbs and other things in the center holes and the surrounding concrete helped keep them a little warmer by absorbing the heat & blocking the cold wind.  
 
master steward
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Kc Simmons wrote:

One thing which has helped me a ton has been journaling my observations of the property through all four seasons.

I also try to note specifically areas which frost first, and take the longest for the frost to melt, and how that changes due to the season. Near the Winter Equinox, if we get freezing weather, the south end of the lower field won't melt at all. The field is surrounded by tall cedar and fir, so there is even a difference between how well the east side of the upper field melts compared to the west side. I think it's the fact that the east side gets the afternoon sun while the air temperature is already as warm as it's going to get.

I'm also aware of how our lower field is a cold air trap. Our back well will easily freeze before our front well would for that reason.
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Hamilton,

I love the water ideas!  I once planted tomatoes just a bit too early in spring and we were forecast to have frost.  Obviously, I didn’t want to have my tomatoes die, so my approach was to use a black, heavy duty trash bag, fill it about 1/4-1/3 full and place in between my tomatoes.  I tucked the opening underneath the bag so the waters own weight sealed the bag.  I filled the trash bags two evenings before the projected frost, meaning that I got home from school, I filled and placed my water bags and let them sit in place.  The next day was sunny and somewhat warm.  When I got home from school the next day, the bag and water heated up very nicely.  The next morning, there was frost everywhere but my garden, which was surrounded by a bit of dew, but nothing else.  The water bags were still warm.

Eric
 
Hamilton Betchman
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Well, I found out that I am currently teetering on the edge of a major slug problem. These mini greenhouses allowed the slugs to feed without letting the birds, snakes, etc. eat them. They got hit pretty hard in just a few hours. Anyways, I have removed all my anti bird devices from around my berries. They are earning their keep!
 
Jay Angler
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Hamilton Betchman wrote:Well, I found out that I am currently teetering on the edge of a major slug problem. These mini greenhouses allowed the slugs to feed without letting the birds, snakes, etc. eat them. They got hit pretty hard in just a few hours. Anyways, I have removed all my anti bird devices from around my berries. They are earning their keep!

There are people who will tell you that you don't have a surplus of slugs, but a deficit of ducks! I definitely find that both snakes and ducks are a huge help. Is there anyway you can add a snake habitat inside your mini greenhouses to keep the snakes active enough to work at this time of year? It's all a balance - if your local snakes would normally hibernate, disturbing that cycle may be bad. Hopefully you'll find some easy solutions. I have used the board system - slugs tend to hide under the board, making it easy for me to collect them. I didn't mind the time spent doing so, because the treat made my ducks so incredibly happy.
 
Posts: 425
Location: Indiana
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For me FROST works well.
By that time I'm tired of pulling tomatoes as canning is done and I take them to the Senior Center.
And frost kills off a lot of weeds and tops of root crops which I pull a couple of weeks after the first frost.

Then it is clean up time. I set the mower on the raised beds or use the weed whacker to trim everything back. I'll probably let those be this year though as I installed my ElectroGardening antennas and wire down through the beds this year. I cannot till at all now, so it is just pull all the weeds and veggie roots I can and let the first of winter take over.

About mid-winter I'll lay some landscaping cloth down to get the beds warmed up as early as possible in the Spring. I just need to beat, by far, what I did with "early" plantings this past Spring. Ah, talking about Spring already. HEY, it is ONLY FOUR MONTHS AWAY!!! SO, about mid-February many seeds must be put into containers and set on my sunny front porch to get plants going by mid-March.
 
Posts: 255
Location: Iqaluit, Nunavut zone 0 / Mont Sainte-Marie, QC zone 4a
52
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Discarded broken patio umbrellas stop the frost from hitting the plants directly which I find is the major problem, and then covering them overnight with old sheets that breathe helps keep the heat in.

In spring when planted / volunteer plants are less robust, I set up sticks and teepees and drape sheets and canvas tarps over those, though still use a double covering with patio umbrellas. It's not full proof but the plants usually survive. I try to rely on fall planting where possible. Also I use cheap plastic tarps: I have a few DIY insulated tarps made of ripped tarps, vapour barrier and spot welds of exterior insulation foam. They are ugly but work well enough.

In spring I start a lot of stuff in containers. What stays outdoors at night I move next to the black rain barrels on the south side -- so massive hot water bottles. Also that wall is basement cement blocks. However I still use the umbrellas. Some heavy duty bags of hay or straw to hold down the umbrellas and act as insulation. When there are a few days of frost in a row I just leave everyone covered.
 
pollinator
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Location: Upstate SC
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I cover vulnerable plants with frost cloth blankets when an overnight frost threatens.  Frost cloth is a white fibrous sheet that allows some sunlight to penetrate, but retards the loss of heat and is durable enough to be used as needed for many years.  Depending on its thickness, it can provide up to 8 degrees F of frost protection.  Unlike clear plastic sheets, it doesn’t overheat during a sunny day and can be left on for as long as long as frosty nights threaten.  Since mulch acts as an insulator, maintaining warmer temperatures below it, but colder temperatures above, before covering the plant with frost cloth, I will remove the mulch to expose the bare soil so that geothermal heat can pass unimpeded into the air space covered by the frost cloth.
 
Ra Kenworth
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Mike Turner wrote:I cover vulnerable plants with frost cloth blankets .


Yes that's the better way to do it
 
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