Thursday, February 24, 2011

WTF? A Freeze in February? In California? Along the Coast?

 Areas of Northern and Central California, including the coast, may see record breaking low temperatures Friday through Sunday. If your local weather forecast is calling for morning lows below 32 degrees, here's a last minute checklist:

 • If it hasn't rained, water plants thoroughly, especially container plants.
• If possible, move sensitive container plants next to a south or west facing wall.

• Cover citrus and other sensitive plants with burlap, row cover fabric or sheets (be sure to keep the sheets dry). Tent plastic sheets over the plants; don't let plastic touch plant leaves. A light bulb placed in such a plant can offer a few degrees of protection.

• If using an anti-transpirant polymer coating material such as Wilt-Pruf or Cloud Cover, apply at the warmest time of the day, or at least six hours before an expected frost. However, research conducted at Washington State University concluded that these products may actually be detrimental to certain plants during a freeze. If using these products, thoroughly water the soil around the plant before applying.

• Disconnect hoses and drip lines, removing end caps. Lay out straight.

• To prevent broken grass blades, don't walk on a frozen lawn.

• Remove the lowest sprinkler head to drain.

• Cover unprotected faucets and pipes, including any spa or pool equipment.

• If temperatures are predicted to fall to the low 20's: prevent frozen attic pipes. Let lukewarm water trickle out of the indoor faucet farthest from the inlet. Also, let faucets with pipes running along an outer, north facing wall trickle during the night. 

• Ideally, add insulation to attic water pipes.
• Open cabinet doors to get more heat to the pipes. Close the garage door if water pipes pass through the garage.

• Setting your thermostat nightly at 55 can add needed heat to the attic pipes.

• If leaving the house for a vacation during an expected freeze, turn off the water to the house, and open up the faucet farthest from the inlet. Be sure to turn off your water heater.

• To prevent cracking tile, run your pool and spa equipment during the freezing hours.

• Don't forget about your pets during a prolonged freeze. Bring them indoors at night. Move or replace their drinking water. Break up any frozen water in bird baths.


  1. Hmmm . . . if you're leaving the house for a Thanksgiving vacation in February, you might have worse problems than a freeze. :-)

    Seriously, this is a great list and I appreciate it very much. I might have done severe damage to my citrus without your input today.

  2. What about my peaches? My Babcock's buds are already starting to bloom, and my OHenry buds are just starting to show a little color. Can they take these cold nights?

    Barbara in Davis

  3. All weather, like all gardening, is local. So, it may not get as cold where your peach trees are located. Or it might. Generally, only a hard freeze - several hours at or below 28 - would inhibit fruit production.