By Paula K. Trahan, BMGA Master Gardener
As our Texas fall has turned into a real winter including snow in Bluebonnet Master Gardener’s four counties, we are all seeking to protect our precious plants we put into the soil in September and October. Depending on the size of garden you have, there are options to shield your investment and not lose much, if any, plant stock.
In past seasons, I have not been vigilant in covering my small, raised beds and just taken my chances. This stance has cost money (losing future production and plant material) as well as extra work (all the wilted plants are a mess!). Social distancing has given me time to design a frost/freeze protection system that can be deployed easily and removed for use this year and next. With an up-front cash outlay of less than $100.00, the coverage is approximately 160 sf (two raised beds, 4×20 feet each).
The structure consists of several 1/2” pvc pipes, 10’ long. Each pipe is bent in an arch across the raised bed and tucked inside along the raised portion of the bed’s 2×10’s. The interval is about 4’ apart. With a bed width of 4’, this arch is around 4’ high giving plenty of height for your growing plants. As the bones of the system doesn’t interfere with the garden itself, you can leave these in place until the danger of frost is gone in spring.
The product to cover and protect was readily available at a local do it yourself store. The brand purchased was Planket. It comes in various sizes and variations such as round and rectangular. The application for my garden needed 2 packages of 10×20’. These were cut in half resulting in four 5×20’ pieces. This was easier for one person to handle when installing, especially on a windy day. Each piece was laid lengthwise across the skeleton of pvc pipes then clipped together with colorful binder clips and then attached to the pipes themselves with small plastic clamps.
The clamps are perfectly sized, and the fabric doesn’t blow apart or in the case of recent sleet and frozen precipitation, it won’t sag and touch the plant material inside.
With our unpredictable weather it may be necessary to remove after only one or two days. It is quite simple to take the Planket off and store for the next frost warning. Just unclip all the fabric, lay it out lengthwise on the grass and roll each piece onto the cardboard tubes in which they were purchased. Rolling them at a two-foot width allows for storage in a plastic tub along with the binder clips and clamps. Plus, storing them in a roll makes for trouble free use in the future.
As it is early January, you can still get a couple of months use out of a system such as this. Considering the cost of plant loss and replanting, it can still be cost efficient for your garden. We all remember those late Easter freezes and now you won’t be caught off guard! For more information on larger garden frost protection, please consult your local BMGA Master Gardener.