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Re: [nafex] Using Water for Freeze Protection

In a message dated 10/4/00 6:52:32 PM, doreenh@ticon.net writes:

<< Do any of you use overhead sprinklers or any kind of irrigation to protect
plants from early freezes?  If so, how do you do it and what plants can be
protected this way?  I know commercial citrus and grape growers use this
technique, but I wonder if it is practical for a home fruit and veggie
garden.  Yesterday, it was in the 70's here, but snow and freezing
temperatures are predicted for Friday.
Doreen Howard
Zone 4--Wisconsin >>

Well, I've used sprinklers on large succulent plants such as papaya with 
success, though sometimes the side away from the sprinkler gets frosted.  
With garden size plants I use buckets of water.  I've protected bush scarlet 
'runner' beans in a row by putting a row of buckets full of water along the 
North side.  (Generally we get north winds with frosts here.) On colder 
nights, I lean green vegetation over beans, using the buckets as a prop in 
the back to make a lean-to.  We use sabal palm fronds because we've got them 
and because of the big area that the palmate leaves cover.  They later become 
mulch, so I don't have to haul them back out of the garden.  Green leaves are 
highly efficient reflectors of infrared so the radiation released by the 
water, and by the soil to a lesser extent, is somewhat trapped under the 
vegetation and keeps the beans warm enough.  We did not lose one bean plant 
with this method.  If you don't have the vegetation to use as cover, silvered 
tarps work, but cost money and have to be taken back out of the garden.  For 
a lesser frost, and I'm sorry I don't remember numbers, the buckets alone 
serve.  (We have a small trickle of free buckets coming to our place so we 
have about 100 at any one time.) 

I surround pepper plants (Capsicum, not Piper) with buckets of water.  I kept 
one habanero going for years t hat way.  I do cover with something in colder 
frosts, to hold in the heat released by the thermal mass of the water.  With 
tomato plants, after picking all fruit that is at all usable, green or 
otherwise, I surround with six buckets of water.  I let the tops freeze back 
but the buckets save the stems which resprout and can grow back if the winter 
is not too bad.

When we use sprinklers, everything ices up--looks like the ices storms we had 
back north.   Any brittle plant is likely to break from the weight.  I'm 
pretty sure this would not save curcubits.   I don't know about other 
veggies.  Peppers might be saved, as they take some cold, as does corn.  
Beans will probably be OK.

A key measure is to pull back mulch around plants as the mulch holds heat in 
the soil.  The area near the soil is warmed if the soil can radiate infrared, 
though of course this effect dissipates rapidly due to the inverse square law.

Even broccoli, which takes a lot of frost, can be damaged if mulched during a 


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