08 January 2014

Garden Frost Protection

Here in south Texas, there isn't very much frost.  If what people say is correct, they've had snow here once in the last 75 to 100 years, and even then, it all melted before the day was over.

We giggle a little bit, inside at least, when it's down to 60 degrees F and all the teachers warn the children not to go outside without their coats and gloves.  Why, if we were in Alaska, we say, all the children would be wearing shorts to school in this weather!

Over Christmas break, we knew we needed to stake up our tomato plants.  I've never done that over Christmas vacation before, but it was a nice first.  I love staking up the tomato plants, too, because all of a sudden the plants look a foot taller than they did before.  At least when the staking is a bit overdue, like it was in our garden.  It makes a dramatic difference.

But back to frost.  We actually have had four very light frosts since Thanksgiving.  Every time I have seen a bit of frost on the neighbors' roofs, or a little dusting of it on the grass, the weather predictions for that night's lows have been 37 degrees F.  Sometimes we've covered the plants; other times we've left them alone.  Every time they've been ok, though--not as happy as if it had been above 60, but they've lived through all those nights.

Early this week, however, there were two nights in a row with predictions of the dreaded 32.  We figured if it can frost with a prediction (and actual recorded low) of 37, our plants could be in real trouble this time.

Like good Northwest gardeners in September, we gathered what supplies we had on hand to protect our little garden from the coming doom (aka frost).  
  • Trash bags.
  • Cardboard boxes.
  • Heavy things like water jugs and bricks on top to keep the cardboard boxes and trash bags from flying away in the wind.
  • Blankets would have worked too, but in this case would have been harder to secure against the wind.
My husband covered all our plants while I made a batch of bread.  Then we prayed for our garden and went to sleep.

I had left some laundry hanging on the line, because it wasn't quite dry, I was lazy, and I didn't see rain on the forecast.  But in the middle of the night when I got up for one of nature's calls, I couldn't get back to sleep for the sound of the wind.

What if all the bags blew off the tomato plants?  What if it really gets too cold for them?  What if all my clothes blow away and I have to buy all new ones?

I got up.  I might not be able to control whether the plants would freeze or not, but I at least wanted to keep my socks from ending up in the neighbors' yards.  Maybe if I took care of one of the major worries keeping me awake, I could go to sleep and see what would happen to the plants in the morning.

I thought about letting my husband sleep through this one, but not wanting him to stir and wonder where I was, or hear noises at the door and come out ready to attack an intruder, I decided to at least wake him up to let him know I'd be out getting the laundry before it all ended up blowing around town.

I assured him he didn't need to come out to help me.  I wouldn't be long, and he needed his sleep for the next day at school.

But no matter what a woman might say, real men don't let their wives go out alone into the coldest night of the year at 2:19 a.m. to get the laundry off the line, so out we went together.

We weren't missing any laundry, but a few of the plant coverings had indeed gone awry in the wind and under the weight of the bricks and water jugs.  My husband set about fixing them up again, putting strengtheners on the tops of boxes to prevent them from caving in, and we went back inside to go back to sleep.

Which took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r.  There's nothing like a good dose of cold wind to wake a person up.

I thought about some of my wonderful friends from college.  Then I thought about people who haven't been nice to me.  I thought about my stresses.  I thought about my friends' stresses, and how I wished I could just wipe them all away (the stresses, not the people).

None of those things helped me go back to sleep, but finally I remembered hymns, and started singing them, silently, in my head.  I don't think I got past the third one before I was asleep again, peacefully, with all those thoughts of stress and pain wiped out of my mind by words of faith I had taken time and effort to memorize years before.

And in the morning when we got up, there wasn't any frost.  In fact, the low had only been down to about 40 degrees.  We thanked God for getting us through the first night, and made plans to protect our plants from the potential frost on the coming night.

Again, we were prepared.  The predicted low still read 32, and I covered the plants just like I had seen my husband do it the night before.  Again, we prayed for our garden, like we imagined the farmers and orchard owners around the valley were also doing.  Again, we woke up the next morning to a world completely free from frost.

We learned something about these south Texas weather predictions:  If it predicts 37, it will probably frost a little bit.  On the other hand, if it predicts 32, temperatures probably won't sink below 40.

Really, though, we were grateful for answered prayers, and for the simple ways our parents taught us years ago to protect our garden from light frosts.  Our plants--especially the tomatoes--are just beginning to put out fruits, and we're completely excited to see how they do in the next month or two.  The ten-day forecast, at least, looks great, with a few highs even in the 80s.


  1. This is a good story. Your man helps you in the cold of night to do a good deed. The beautiful tomato plants and helpless laundry are saved. Nothing freezes or dies. And the comfort of hymns puts you back to sleep. All is well.

  2. Well, not the most beautiful pictures ever, but SO fun to see what you did! And it was fun to see how much the tomatoes have grown -- amazing! It made me think, Yes, the Lord is restoring your losses, providing tomato plants to stake up in December!

    Also loved picturing the two of you wandering around your back yard in the middle of the night!! :)

  3. Yes, Barbara, all is well--and I had to try to remember that all would be well even if it DID frost, because all would still be in God's hands.

    I suppose all the trash bags and boxes made our yard look a little, well, trashy, didn't they, Mom? But the plants were warm and happy. :)


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