Protect Your Garden During the Winter

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Arizona is fortunate to have amazing weather. All of our outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking and playing in parks can be enjoyed in comfortable temperatures for the majority of the year. Sightseeing and visiting amusement parks are open all year long as well. Of course we get hammered by scorching temperatures in the summer; at least it’s better than shoveling feet and feet of snow! (Sorry East Coast!!)

For most of the winter, Arizona sees milder temperatures than the rest of the country, but freezing temperatures can still be a threat to gardens. When the weather begins to dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, what can you do? You can’t pack it up and tend to it inside! To keep your garden alive during a nighttime freeze, there are a few precautions you can take to protect your plants:

Cover it up.
There are a variety of covers, from fancy to homemade, that you can use to cover up your garden. Prefabricated greenhouses are available at all major home improvement stores, and can come in quite handy if you have a small garden, or a garden that’s mostly in pots. Some of them are great, but can be on the expensive side; others aren’t as nice, and unfortunately can still be a bit pricey.

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A great DIY alternative is to construct your own greenhouse! A simple PVC frame lined with heavy duty painter’s tarps does the trick. You can also cover your garden with extra sheets; our mismatched tent of sheets makes our garden look like an Arabian marketplace! At night, the lights on the plants glow underneath their covering make for a beautiful sight.

Warm it up.
Of course our natural instinct is to try to stay warm when it’s cold. Do the same thing for your plants! For larger areas, you may consider heat lamps. They throw off loads of heat, mimicking the sun’s warmth to keep away the night’s chill. Heat lamps can be quite powerful, and you must be careful to not cook your plants!

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For smaller backyard gardens, outdoor Christmas lights seem to do the trick. They use small amounts of power, and let off enough heat to keep the plants warm, but not too warm. Plus, they look pretty! Wrap them loosely around the base of the plants, and wind them up the plant to protect any fruit that may have started to grow.

Insulate it.
The dimensions and building materials of your garden are almost as important as its location in your yard. If you’re planting a long, wide garden right into the ground, you run the risk of your plants freezing much faster than if they are spaced closer together in raised beds. Also, the denser your building materials are, the better they will hold in the sun’s heat.

tomato freezeHere’s a side-by-side comparison of our two gardens. Our keyhole garden is build with solid concrete block. At about 50 lbs. a piece, it’s safe to say that they’re pretty dense! We strung up our plants with lights, which we got for a great deal when we bought them at the beginning of the holiday season. We also covered the plants with sheets and plastic. The tops of some plants had a touch of burn from the freezing temperatures that we had for a few nights in a row. Overall, they came out alright, and are still growing amazingly well.

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Our smaller garden is made of cinderblocks, which is a substantially lighter material. We made a last minute decision to not string up any lights in this garden, as the plants were already growing so big and close together. Little did we know, that it wouldn’t be enough! With only a sheet to protect them, these tomato plants got hammered hard with freeze burn. They continue to grow even now, but they definitely seem to be growing much slower, and don’t look quite as nice.

How do you protect your garden during cold and freezing temperatures? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below, and we might try your suggestions in our gardens next year!

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