Remember where we live: Freeze protection may still be needed |

Remember where we live: Freeze protection may still be needed

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

by JoAnn Skelly

The flowering trees throughout Carson City look beautiful. Bulbs are popping up all over town. Flowering peach, quince and native desert peach display colors from pale to deep pink. Forsythia is blooming a brilliant yellow.

Spring is definitely here.

Those of us who have lived here for years know Northern Nevada spring weather means not only great spring color, but also late spring freezes. Many of us succumb to the teasing warm weather, planting flowers and vegetables before the average last-frost date of May 15. Newcomers may not be prepared for the upcoming, damaging cold weather.

What can a gardener do to protect early-planted vegetables or delicate flowers? Place paper bags, not plastic, over tender tomatoes, peppers, squash, other tender vegetables and flowers. Bury the edges of the bags with soil to keep out drafts. Or use “walls-of-water” that can be purchased in nurseries. These create mini-greenhouses to protect plants. Gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut out and shoved into the soil over small seedlings will do the same thing. Leave the caps on the jugs at night.

Some gardeners prefer to make a hoop house using plastic pipe bent into a half circle. They attach the ends to the ground then cover the pipes with plastic. They place these over entire rows or beds of plants.

Cold frames are an additional method of protection. These are basically somewhat-raised boxes with a glass or plastic lids. Tender plants are grown inside.

Can anything be done to protect the blossoms on peach trees or other early-blooming fruit trees to ensure fruit? One gardener used to go out at night and hang cans of hot charcoal briquettes in his peach tree, a variation of the smudge pot idea. He swore he always had a peach crop. The fact that he was up all night refilling his braziers of coals did not daunt him.

Other people cover their fruit trees with blankets on cold nights. Farmers run sprinklers all night when frosts or freezes are expected.

Stay aware of the weather. Listen to the weather reports. Watch for clear still nights, which may indicate a freeze will occur that evening.

If you do not want to think about freezes, how about a visual horticulture treat? Go see the grounds of the Capitol. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained. What a great spring color display!

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For gardening information, call me at 887-2252 or e-mail Or, call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. You can also “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.