By Albert Makendenge

Low winter temperatures are a big threat to farmers as an unexpected freeze during this time can easily devastate a farmer’s plants, leaving the leaves and branches either black or brown. Below are a few tips on how to prevent or minimize the impact of frost (a thin layer of ice that forms when water vapor changes from gas to a solid as it is exposed to temperatures below the freezing point.

  • Potted plants and hanging baskets should be brought inside in the event of a frost since they are more prone to frost damage as they do not benefit from insulating powers of the earth (as in-ground plants would)
  • Farmers also encouraged to water their plants in the afternoon as moist soil has an insulating effect which radiates heat upwards come nightfall.
  • Mulching, just like when a person slips into a sweater when it is chilly, helps to protect and warm up the soil, in the event of sudden swings in temperature.
  • Covering individual plants with cloches or bell shaped plastics also helps to keep the plants warm and cozy in cold weather.  
  • A lager group of plants can be protected by simply covering them up with blankets, towels or drop cloths. For extra resistance, a final layer of plastic or shower curtain can be used to greater effect
  • Young trees which are much more sensitive to injury can be wrapped up in towels, rags, cardboard and blankets to offer protection.
  • On bigger pieces of land, farmers may consider keeping the air moving for example through the use of large fans that pull cold air up and warmer air down to the ground.
  • Last but not least is the obvious method of choosing to grow cold-hardy plants that thrive in spite of the cold. Examples include broccoli, cabbage, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach and leeks.

When plants have been affected, farmers have to remain patient for the weather to warm up before pruning. The dead branches and leaves actually provide a bit of protection too so one should hold on until new growth appears.

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