Can Tomatoes Survive Frost?
16.10.2023 - 05:31
As many of us gardeners know, tomatoes are a warm-season crop. Even a light frost can damage both the foliage and the fruit of tomato plants. In addition, many areas of the US can experience an early fall frost that is followed by several weeks of warm weather. Providing frost protection for tomatoes can extend their growing season.
Predicting a frost can be tricky. Many factors, such as cloud cover and wind speed, affect how cold air settles to the ground. To complicate matters, frost can form whenever the ground temperature reaches 32 degrees F (0 C). Yet, meteorologists measure ambient temperatures at 4 feet (1.2 m) above the ground.
This means gardeners can have frost even when the weather forecast predicts overnight temperatures will remain above freezing. Whenever a frost warning is issued, moving container plants inside or covering garden tomatoes can save this valuable crop. Covering plants traps heat and can keep the air around the plants several degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.
If possible, water the soil around the base of garden tomato plants several hours before covering them, as moist soil retains more heat. Be sure the water has soaked into the ground to prevent the material used to cover the plants from becoming damp. Wet covers can freeze and damage the plants beneath them.
Follow these additional tips when protecting tomato plants from frost:
Tomato plants growing low to the ground can be covered with a thick layer of leaves, newspaper, cardboard or cotton blankets.
Cardboard boxes make ideal frost covers for small-sized tomato plants.
Use cloche cloth or cotton fabric, such as old sheets and blankets, to cover larger plants. Avoid plastic sheeting or poly tarps as these trap moisture on the leaves
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