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Avoid cold weather prep mistakes

Posted: 8:13 PM, Feb 19, 2015
Updated: 2016-01-19 11:29:54-05
Tampa Bay is bracing for one of its coldest nights in years, and you need to prepare your plants.
 
John Ferrell, who lives up in Hudson, was quite concerned about the tropical plants he purchased a few months ago.
 
"The frigid temperatures were coming in, and we didn't have any sheets to cover the plants," Ferrell said.
 
So he got resourceful. He turned his old moving boxes into his personal plant protection. 
 
Turns out, that wasn't that crazy of an idea. 
 
ABC Action News met up with Peter Santangelo, the owner of Canterbury Farms Nursery, to discuss what's right and what's wrong when it comes to protecting your plants from the cold.
 
"Any plant that you want to protect, you want to make sure you cover it all the way to the ground," Santangelo said.
 
He recommends using a winter protection cloth. However, if you don't have that, he says blankets are the next best thing. 
 
"Sheets are thin, and if the dew point is high, the condensation will make the sheet freeze also," Santangelo said.
 
He says whatever you use, just don't pick plastic. 
 
"The plastic - when it touches leaves, and the sun hits it, can burn it," he said.
 
Santangelo has spent the last day and a half prepping and covering the plants in his nursery. The most weather sensitive ones he moved into two greenhouses on his property.
 
He plans to keep a close eye on everything all night long.
 
"I'll stay here all through the night til tomorrow morning," he said. 
 
Here are more tips from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences:
 
  • Drape your plants completely so the covering touches the soil. This ensures that ground heat is trapped underneath.
  • If the plant you’re trying to protect is too large to cover completely, wrap the plant’s trunk in layers. The university suggests using newspapers in addition to cloth coverings. You should remove the covers once the temperature rises above freezing.
  • You might be tempted to try what many Florida farmers do in cold weather: Douse their fields with water from irrigation systems. According to the university, this can go wrong for home gardeners. We’ll show you how to do this properly at 11.
  • If your lawn browns after cold weather, don’t get too concerned. When the temperatures warm in the spring the green should return, according to the university. In the meantime, avoid fertilizing your lawn as this could actually cause more damage.