Best method of protecting plants from late frosts?
Always like to be prepared, I live in Scotland and the weather can be quite unpredictable and it wouldn't be the first time I have been caught out with a frost and lost my young plants. I haven't planted anything outside yet but I wondered what people's thoughts were on different types of coverings for the plants in the event of a frost forecast once plants are in the ground. Lots of people use fleece it seems. I assume that this is just fleece I could pick up at a fabric shop? How do I secure it to/around plants? Are there better alternatives I could use?
Best strategy: Wait to plant or transplant tender crops after danger of frost has (ordinarily) passed in your area.
But gardeners have devised numerous ingenious season-extending devices, ranging from free or minimal cost ideas ("tents" of bedsheets or blankets, upended cardboard boxes, cold frames http://bit.ly/16MPVZy made from discarded windows) to the more costly--unheated "hoophouses," http://bit.ly/16MQ0wt greenhouses. You can surround individual plants with purchased or homemade plastic caps, cones, water-walls, etc. and even make your own, I've seen some cool-looking season extenders made with plastic bubble wrap.
Here's a pretty good slideshow of mostly low-tech, homemade season extension devices. http://bit.ly/16MSzi9
Soil temperature is another key to getting plants off to a good start. Temperatures for direct-seeding is also right for transplanting. http://bit.ly/16MT0J7 (Here's one for Celsius http://bit.ly/16MTy1C)
I got a frost last night had plants under five gallon buckets, Styrofoam coolers blankets, comforters upside down pots.
The plants that were under more insulating items or larger air pockets faired okay. The more form fitting the worse off I was. I have since read that sheets tend to work better since when the are draped over they have more ground surface area that then will release its heat upwards to protect the plants.
Too late for me but save yours. Good luck
The fleece (also called floating row cover) is secured to the ground with rocks, landscape staples, or heavy garden stakes. It's placed over a frame such as a wire cage on its side. If the leaves of the plant touch the row cover, they may get damaged. It may protect plants from a frost that lasts only a few hours; I don't think it works for a prolonged frost. The advantage of using floating row cover (vs. sheets or blankets) is that it lets water through and transmits light, so it can be left on until it's warm enough to leave it off entirely. If you used boxes or blankets, you'd have to cover the plants in the evening and then take them off in the morning, every day that frost was forecast.
When I've planted tomatoes early, I've used walls-o-water -- a plastic cylinder that surrounds the tomato plant, with tubes that you fill with water. It can be angled over the plant like a tepee for more protection, or placed with the sides vertically. It's like a small greenhouse for the plant. In my clilmate, I need to protect tomatoes from windy days and nights usually around 45F, so I leave the walls-o-water until mid to late May. They keep the plants warmer at night. When the plants grow over the top of the water walls, I wrap the tomato cages with bubblewrap, or at least cover the top of the cage so that morning dew does not fall on the foliage.
Flaoting row cover is also used to keep pests off of plants, such as cucumber beetles. The row cover is removed only when the plants begin to bloom, so that they can be pollinated.