Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fending Off Frost In Florida

Image of a snowed in North East after the blizzard dumped on it

Okay I know compared with our neighbors in the North East we have NOTHING to complain about weather wise, and I'll gladly leave the blizzard conditions up there. However, occasional freezes in this neck of the woods can have devastating effects on the not so hardy subtropical plants here.  My zone is on the border of zone 9B, and in our warmer months it's basically a subtropical area.  The winters are for the most part mild, but we can have that sudden drop that brings on a quick freeze.

Right now with my food forest being immature and many of the cover plantings and trees still small that leaves my more tender subjects open to real freeze damage or demise.  And with everything growing so well we didn't want to lose our investment of time and money that we have in these.  So when last weekend while the North East was dealing with their blizzard Jonas we were preparing for a sudden drop into the very low 30's here in Central Florida.

While the results of our preparations were not pretty they were effective and really that's what counts here.  We had been busy moving mulch from our tree trimming pile around the base of our trees and plants.  Then we gathered all the old drop cloths, sheets and protective yard fabrics we could find to cover plants and trees.

Hannah digging into the now steaming mulch pile

Lauren and Cameron at work on the pile
Our first nights draping over and around the fruit trees and banana circles

Another look with heater in place

Kevin and Cameron testing out the kerosene heaters

Testing the tall propane patio heater

In the front of the house we pulled potted plants and trees together next to a South facing wall to keep them warm.

Potted plants gathered by house
Our beautiful -not- coverings that fortunately worked as planned!

We covered areas of the garden with sheets and protective fabric.

Garden covered up and ready for frost

The cold coverings were put over fruit trees and barriers from the cold were built as frames to help as much as we could.

Initially we used heaters in the banana circle area and while they were effective the outer edges still suffered that first night, so the second night we put up a canopy and more sheets to help fend off the extreme cold.

Heaters on at 2 am when Kevin went out to check fuel levels 

Frost on the canopy and the extra covers we used the 2cd night

Frost on the roof near garden

Frost on the roof and amazingly the sheets worked to save the plants below

The whole yard covered.  You can see the frost on the ground, except there wasn't any within the warm circle we created

Closeup of a weed covered with frost in the yard

Our efforts and expense of the fuels burned in the 2 kerosene heaters and the 1 propane patio heater, were rewarded by a fairly frost free area in the middle of an otherwise frosty yard on the mornings of the freeze.

We did lose a few plants that we failed to protect, and some of the outer leaves of the bananas and more tender fruits showed damaged, but they survived which is what we really were aiming for.

Some of the outer leaves on the bananas were damaged, but as a whole they survived

A few of the pineapples were affected, but with some tlc I think I can save them
My Thai Basil was a total loss

The first night we didn't cover as much of the garden and lost these tomatillos as a result

The weather then quickly changed again and a major rain storm came through quickly warming things up with the cloud cover that came with it.  So just as fast as we wrapped everything up, it needed to come down.

Steam coming off the lake in the morning after the frost

In time the microclimates I plan to create with plants and trees that are hardier, will act as shelter for the more tender ones and allow them to survive without so much babying from us.  This was very apparent with my two Jackfruit trees that are planted among more established pines and oaks in our yard.  We did nothing to protect them other than adding a new layer of mulch to their base and they came through totally unscathed by the freeze.

Both Jackfruit trees in great shape after the frosty nights and no cover other than surrounding trees
The small kumquat didn't need extra protection with the protection from the surrounding trees

So we take the lessons from this and keep moving forward with the desired edible yard and food forest that I would truly like to see flourish here at our homestead.  Our latest additions are an abundance of bulbs and seeds the girls and I are preparing to plant all around to add some beauty and color to our otherwise green and rather bland plantings.  That will be for another post.

SO LONG for now-


  1. Hell-o, fellow Central Florida blogger. We've had such a mild winter, I'm kind of thankful for the cooler weather for the broccoli, cabbage, and greens. Not so good for tomatoes though! Glad to have found another Florida garden blog.

    1. Janice, couldn't agree more the mild weather has not only fooled me, but my plants and they are a bit shocked at the changes. I've been nurturing them back since this freeze and am watching this latest cool period. Apologies for the delayed response, I've been busy planting bulbs and starting seedlings and failed to check my blog since my post. Welcome and I'd love to share my successes and failures with my fellow Central Florida bloggers, so please feel free to share and I promise to be a better responder :) All the best to you - Lynda