The Q&A Archives: Protecting Trees from Frost

Question: Our Bradford Pear Trees in our neighborhood have started to bloom and it is only January 15th. Today is 68 degrees and my garden is confused. Is there anything we can do to protect our trees when we do have a hard freeze? We usually have one in February and our trees bloom shortly after but never this soon.

Answer: It seems as if temperatures have been strange all over the country this year. The most effective way to protect plants is to trap heat radiating up from the soil. At sunset, cover plants with sheets, blankets, burlap or layers of newspaper that extend completely to the ground. (Never use plastic which can increase frost damage.) If possible, provide a framework that allows the covering to drape over the plant but not touch its foliage. Try wooden stakes, wire cages or flexible tubing. The cloth should extend as far out as the plant?s drip line or canopy and drop to the ground. Don?t gather and tie it to the plant?s trunk, which would allow the heat radiating up from the ground to dissipate.

In the morning, remove the covering before temperatures underneath rise to 50 degrees, which would encourage the plant to break dormancy and start growing. A flush of tender new growth is susceptible to freezing temperatures.

Another option is to buy frost cloth that provides protection from 30 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit depending on its fabric and weave. Good luck!

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