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Frost: how to protect your garden


Canadians are starting to see frost on their lawns and windshields
Canadians are starting to see frost on their lawns and windshields

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

September 17, 2012 — Frost warnings are starting to pop up in parts of the country. Do you know how to protect your plants and crops?

Morning frost can damage plants and crops
Morning frost can damage plants and crops

Clear skies, cool temperatures and calm winds; those are the ingredients needed at this time of year for frost to develop.

Warnings are already starting to pop up in some parts of the country. Martha Gay Scroggins is a Coordinator at the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming. She says frost means the end of the season for produce growers. 

“It's an end to anything growing above ground,” Scroggins tells The Weather Network. “Though frost is really good for a lot of crops that grow underground, like parsnips and carrots. They all get a little bit sweeter. So it's good and bad!”

Crops like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and raspberries don't fare very well after a round of hard frost with temperatures below zero.

“Anything that's above ground that's tender, like a tender leaf with a lot of water in it, will be black. And you'll go out in the morning and it will be very sad to see,” explains Scroggins. “With a hard frost we will lose the ability to save seed from a lot of the lettuces which will become too wet. The quality of the seed itself decreases with a frost. So we like the frost to be as late in the season as possible!”

Frost is common in September
Frost is common in September

If you have a greenhouse, this time of year is ideal for using it to protect plants and produce. Scroggins also recommends row covers, old sheets or any sort of blanket to insulate crops. 

“If you have an irrigation system you can spray with water so the more moisture that's around the crop the better,” she says. “The density of plants in the field will help each other and support each other to ward off frost.” 

If your region ends up under a frost warning you should take steps to protect tender vegetation. Also, potted plants normally left outdoors should be covered or brought inside, away from the cold. 

For details on any current frost warnings, head to the Alerts section of our website.

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