It happens to us all - you get nice weather for a while and you put your seedlings out. Then the worst news comes out - you're going to have a cold snap. How do you protect your plants?
There are a number of ways you can do this, including:
- Bringing them indoors or under cover (like under a covered patio or carport)
- Using a floating row cover
- Using a portable greenhouse
- Using hoops
So what should you choose? Below is some information on each option.
Bringing them indoors or under cover
If you have plants in containers, it might be an option to bring them indoors during the cold snap. This shouldn't hurt them too much, as it is exactly what those of us in colder climates do to prepare our plants for being outside. It's called hardening them off. We'll move them outside during the warmer temps of the day and then inside for the colder temps at night. If we have cold temps during the day, then we leave them indoors.
You may be able to give them enough protection just by moving them under cover. I have a patio that has walls on two sides, which helps protect the plants from the cold winds. Often times just moving the plants under there closer to our apartment will be just enough to help out.
Using floating row covers
Floating row covers are probably the easiest way to go, as you don't need to move any of your plants. This uses a special material that is made to keep in the warmth, but let in the sunlight. And it is light enough that it shouldn't harm your plants. You just need to make sure to anchor it somehow if you are going to get any wind.
Some info on setting this up can be found here.
Here's a picture of someone utilizing row covers, holding them down with large rocks, from the blog Colorado Mountain Gardeners:
Using a portable greenhouse
This is similar to bringing your plants inside or putting them under cover. The difference is that you utilize a portable greenhouse, whether it be a large walk-in one like the one I just bought or a smaller one that you can set over your plants. This is good for those who don't have room inside to bring in all their plants.
Here's my greenhouse:
Hoops are similar to floating row covers, except that the fabric isn't set on top of the plants - it's put over hoops that create a greenhouse-like environment over your plants. This helps keep in the warmth while letting the sunshine in. Many people who have raised beds will install brackets that allow them to use hoops during the cooler months and then remove them once they get warm. These can also be good for those who live in areas where it is very hot - you can get special material that helps block some of the sun/heat so that it stays cooler inside.
Here's some info on hoops.
Here's a picture of a hoope house from Bonnie Plants. The page also include info on making one.
You can also buy ones that have the structure already built in them that allows you just to set them over your plants. I ordered these ones to try, but then ended up getting a greenhouse instead.