The Q&A Archives: Frost Damage and Prevention

Question: How can one prevent frost damage to strawberries when the frost occurs unexpectedly? Will spraying with a mist of water be beneficial? I believe that orchard growers use this method? How does this help? Please explain the mechanics of frost damage to blossoms.

Answer: Frost damages blooms and other plant tissues by causing ice crystals to form which puncture the plant cell walls, causing the contents to leak out and the cells to collapse.

Applying water is beneficial but can get complicated. Water will often fend off a light frost. However, when a freeze occurs, you must be able to keep applying a coating of water to the plants, even as the ice builds up, to prevent the temperatures of the plant tissues from dropping below freezing.

If you stop, then temperature will drop and the protection is lost. In fact, supercooling can even occur. Another problem with sprinkling plants during a hard freeze is that the ice loads can really damage plants.

The simplest way to protect strawberries on a frosty night is to cover them with the heavier weights of floating row cover. This will reduce heat escaping from the soil and can provide a few degrees of protection, which is often enough. Remember to allow the soil to warm, uncovered, during the day and then cover the plants late in the day.

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