BDN interviews Garland about protecting plants from frost

The Bangor Daily News interviewed Kate Garland, a horticultural professional with University of Maine Cooperative Extension, for an article about protecting plants from an unexpected spring frost. “I think most gardeners who have a couple seasons under their belts have experienced cold damaged crops,” said Garland. “It manifests itself differently depending on the crop.” Frost causes ice crystals to form in plant cells, which make cell walls burst and make water unavailable to plant tissues. The effects can be seen as slimy, blackened leaves or discolored fruit later in the growing season, according to the BDN. Garland recommends protecting your garden if there is any indication in the weather forecast of a frost, or even temperatures in the high 30s. Cold hardy vegetables like peas, spinach, carrots, radishes, beets, cabbages and other leafy greens probably do not need to be protected, but summer crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini should be, according to the article. “If seeds haven’t germinated yet you don’t have to worry about protecting them at all,” said Garland. “They can tolerate cold temperatures.” But seeds that have been planted too early or are especially susceptible to wet conditions and pests, including peas, beans and corn, are an exception, the article states. Garland recommends row cover, a gauzy white fabric available at garden supply stores, as the best defense against a late frost. Crops should be covered first thing in the morning when frost is expected, and well watered to stay hydrated throughout the day, according to the article. “It is an investment to get row cover for your crops, but you can reuse it over a couple of years. You want something lightweight that can breathe. That row cover also makes a nice pest barrier,” she said. “One of the key things I suggest if you have damaged plants is to invest in another set of plants instead of trying to wait for that plant to recover. If you do end up in that situation, just start over again. There’s plenty of time to replant,” Garland said.