Tips to Protect Plants from Frost in the Spring

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What is going on with this weather, it really, really sucks!

I am not sure where all our readers are from but I bet some of you are getting this same mixed up weather that we are getting here in Ontario.  And I have concerns!  Concerns regarding my poor flowers that have already woken up and struggling to stay warm.  And our feathered friends that come back each and every year, how do they keep warm and find shelter when there isn’t even leaves on the trees yet?

Protecting our plants is a must around here to ensure I have gorgeous gardens all summer long, so I thought I’d share some tips to protect your plants this very difficult spring.

Tips For Protecting Plants From Frost

First of all, do not panic. Do keep in mind that anytime there is a threat of frost, you need to take precautionary measures to protect tender plants from exposure to cold temperatures.

The most common way to guard against frost is with the use of some type of covering. Most anything will work, but old blankets, sheets, and even burlap sacks are best. When covering plants, drape them loosely and secure with stakes, rocks, or bricks. The lighter covers can simply be placed directly over the plants, but heavier covers may require some type of support, such as wire, to prevent the plants from becoming crushed under the weight. Covering tender garden plants in the evening will help retain heat and protect them from freezing. However, it is important that the covers be removed once the sun comes out the following morning; otherwise, the plants may fall victim to suffocation.

Another way to protect plants is by watering them a day or two before the frost is expected. Wet soil will hold more heat than soil that is dry. However, do not saturate the plants while the temperatures are extremely low, as this will result in frost heave and ultimately injure the plants. Light watering in the evening hours, before temperatures drop, will help raise humidity levels and reduce frost damage.

Some people prefer to mulch their garden plants. This is fine for some; however, not all tender plants will tolerate heavy mulching; therefore, these may require covering instead. Popular mulching materials that can be used include straw, pine needles, bark, and loosely piled leaves. Mulch helps to lock in moisture and during cold weather, holds in heat. When using mulch, try to keep the depth at about two to three inches.

Some tender plants actually require over-wintering in a cold frame or indoors. Cold frames can be purchased at most garden centers or built easily at home. Wood, cinder blocks, or bricks can be used for the sides and old storm windows can be implemented as the top. For those needing a quick, temporary frame, simply incorporate the use of baled hay or straw. Stack these around your tender plants and apply an old window to the top.

Designing a garden with raised beds will also help guard plants against frost during cold temperatures. Cold air tends to collect in sunken areas rather than higher mounds. Raised beds also make covering of plants easier.

The best way to know what type of precautionary measure you should take for tender garden plants is knowing their individual needs. The more you know the better off your garden and tender plants will be.

What Do Birds Do When Temperatures Drop?

When a bird experiences falling temperatures on a winter or cold Spring day, it can prevent its body temperature from dropping.

Most birds respond to the cold in similar ways, but the temperatures that trigger their behavioral and physiological responses vary widely. In general the bigger the bird the easier it is to cope with cold temperatures.

Some behaviors and physiological responses that help them conserve heat include:

  1. Tucking feet and legs into their breast feathers.
  2. Fluffing their plumage. This traps air, creating an insulating layer.
  3. Finding shelter. Birds use dense shrubs and tree cavities to conserve heat.
  4. Increasing their metabolic rate, producing more body heat
  5. Shivering (produces more metabolic heat)
  6. Roosting closely together with other birds. (Up to ten bluebirds have been found to roost in the same tree cavity on cold nights)
  7. Some birds like Black-capped Chickadees can ‘lower their body temperature at night and enter regulated hypothermia, saving significant amounts of energy.
  8. In addition, ‘many birds store food and have exceptional spatial memory to relocate it, even a month later.’ (from the on-line resource, Birds of North America)

Other interesting facts:

  • Generally birds need more food in cold weather. Small birds need relatively more food than larger ones, and they generally eat smaller items, so they are more likely to be affected by a blizzard. A small bird’s survival may depend on how well it can conserve energy during a storm. A chickadee, for instance, will increase its feeding intensity during cold weather.
  • In general larger birds cope with the cold better than smaller birds.
  • Did you know that individuals of a species living in colder regions tend to be larger than individuals living in warmer areas!
  • Torpor: Some birds (hummingbirds, swifts, and nighthawks and relatives) may enter a state of torpor at night or during cold weather. Their temperature drops and metabolic rates slow letting them conserve energy when food is not available.

So I guess until Spring really decides to arrive and stay we here in Ontario are having to cope with ever changing weather.  Here in Ontario we adapt and we adapt quickly.  Would still like some heat and sun, please.  And yes I will complain in the middle of summer when it is humid and scorching out, but that is what we do here in Canada.  If we aren’t complaining about the weather we are complaining about our government, neither of which we can control.

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