Frost season along the Central Coast has officially arrived. According to officials with the USDA, the “date of concern” comes on or around October 15th. It will last until on or around March 15th. The worst nights to worry about are going to be still, clear and cold. As frost can be deadly to citrus, avocado and subtropical plants I wanted to introduce you to an awesome solution I came across called Bonide “Wilt Stop.”
While fans, heaters, and frost fabric protect against frost this new product that can help. In my opinion Wilt Stop is the absolute best frost and wind protection on the market! It’s made of pine resin which is a natural and organic substance, but best of all Wilt Stop only needs to be applied once a season. It need only be re-applied whenever there is new growth.
Wilt Stop is sold in pints, quarts, and gallons and also comes in an easy to apply quarts with a “ready to use” hose-end sprayer. There is a similar product called “Cloud Cover.” While it can also be of help it is a chemical compound and needs to be re-applied every four weeks or so. Although both products are labeled as non-toxic Cloud Cover can’t make the “natural and organic” claim that Wilt Stop can.
If you have any citrus, avocado, or subtropical plants in your garden now is the time to apply. Wilt Stop works best when applied during bright sunny days and slightly warmer weather. It’s always best to apply it well in advance of any anticipated frost.
Given where we live, the danger of frost will exist forever but this should not prevent you from planting frost tender plants. They are just too beautiful to pass up. Even more important, solutions to prevent the effects of frost exist and your local nursery stands ready to give advice.
Here are some tips on how to protect your plants in case of a freeze, even a light one, and preserve your beautiful and valuable landscape.
Well watered plants fare better than dry ones during a frost. Water plumps up the plant’s cells protecting them, plus moist soil retains more heat than dry soil.
We recommend using Master Bloom monthly beginning in September to ‘harden off’ Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, and other tender plants.
Fast Start is a “thermal blanket” for your plants. Simply cut the material to a size large enough to cover the plant allowing a few inches of slack for plant growth and for anchoring the edges. Then just drape it over the plant for as long as night temps are less than 30 degrees F, up to 4-6 weeks. There is no need to remove it during the day because Fast Start’s unique construction breathes preventing it from ‘welding’ to plant leaves and transferring the cold to the plant the way plastic sheeting does. Fast Start will modify the temperature around a plant by 2-6 degrees, enough to significantly reduce frost and cold damage. Other covers like plastic sheeting or blankets must be draped over stakes or a frame (to keep them from touching a plant directly) and should be removed during the day.
LIGHTS-Placing a lit 50-100 watt light bulb underneath the Fast Start (or plastic sheeting tent) will raise the temperature around the plant. Make sure the light bulbs don’t touch the leaves or Fast Start. One attractive solution is stringing miniature Christmas tree lights through your plants then leaving them on overnight . This keeps plants warmer and looks festive too.
Anti-transparent, like Cloud Cover, offer 2-3 degree F protection from frost and help protect plats from drying out in storm winds. They can be used with Fast Start for even greater protection.
Container plants should be moved, if possible, to under an eave or over-hang. South facing walls absorb the most heat during the day and radiate it at night offering protection to nearby plants. Other good spots for protection are under an evergreen tree, under a lath structure, or in the garage or carport.
Besides staying up to listen to the 11:00 news to find out how cold it is going to get at night, (then being too sleepy to go outside to protect the plants), here are a few early warning signs of an especially cold night.
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