Covering tomatoes during a cold snap

by Julie
Hello... during a few days of spring we bought/planted some sturdy 8-10" high tomato plants. No fruit, no flowering. Then we had 2" of snowfall! Fortunately we covered them (milky colored heavy plastic & stakes) beforehand & they did well. Snow is gone now, they've been covered 2 days. Yesterday I opened it up for a few hours on one end for air only/no sun. Skies are very cloudy still & rain coming tonight & over next couple of days.
Question: Do I keep them covered --OR NOT? Day temps are only in the high 40s-mid 50s/some wind. When it rains it'll be a cold rain. Are they OK covered up until Monday when temps even out?
  12 answers
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Mar 23, 2013
    How cold are the nights supposed to be? The plastic should not hurt them unless the sun really pops out warm. I think I would leave it on them otherwise. It is really still too cold for the tomatoes outside. I was a little suprised to see them for sale.

  • Julie Julie on Mar 23, 2013
    Yeah me too! But we all thought the warm weather was here to stay. Last year we had them in the ground at this point (central AR). Tonight will be in the 40s. But Sun, Mon,Tues, are in the 50s/day and freezing at night. I'll cover them those nights, uncover during the day--? I'm mainly worried about no sun. The cover isn't clear, it's milky. Thank you for responding. I'll keep them covered. Any other advice? Worried tomato mama here, ha ha

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 24, 2013
    I would definitely keep them covered, and I'm almost thinking you should dig them up and bring them inside. It is going to be a challenge to bring them through multiple freezes.

  • Gar123700 Gar123700 on Mar 24, 2013
    Next time try using landscape fabric around the plants instead of plastic. Two seasons ago I did a garden for a friend who suggested we try the landscape fabric to plant tomatoes early.. .(We are in the Seattle burbs).. We put three stakes in the ground.. (bamboo, leave plenty of room around the tomato plant for air circ too).. then wrapped the fabric around the bamboo stakes.. then tied it on.. just take twine and tie around the bamboo stakes.. we also took a square to fit of the fabric and tied it on the top .. it became it's own mini greenhouse.. We debated taking it all off as the days/nights became warmer.. Took one off and three on.. the three on plants did exceedingly well .. took the top off when the nights/soil got to the consistent 50 degrees.. going to utilize this method from now on!.. good luck!

  • Julie Julie on Mar 24, 2013
    Thanks everybody. I'm so bummed right now because starting overnight the cold, cold wind picked up and blew the plastic down on them, and ripping the plastic off of the stakes & onto the tomatoes. I attempted to fix it this morning, in the blistering wind (they looked ok except for one of the 5), but hours later the wind just ripped the plastic, making holes in it. I think digging them up is the best solution (thanks Douglas) because they haven't been in the ground very long. Man weather turned on us this year -- the last two years up here our tomatoes were fine by mid March! :(

  • Julie Julie on Mar 24, 2013
    And thank you J, that's great advice!!

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 25, 2013
    Julie, despite your luck the last two years, tomatoes should never go in the ground before your average last frost date. For you, that's early April. You can find you last frost date by zip code here:

  • Gar123700 Gar123700 on Mar 25, 2013
    Thanks so much Douglas.. going to forward the calendar to all my gardener friends!

  • Julie Julie on Apr 01, 2013
    Yes, thanks Douglas! I thought our last freeze was earlier, oops. But as it went, I ended up digging up the tomatoes the day of my last entry. Brought them in, planted in good soil, and they looked so much better the next day. Good news is, despite the heavy rain, winds, and some more freezing temps we've had since, they've thrived indoors, in our cooler laundry room,by the windows. On sunny days I've been putting them outside in the sun all day. It saved them all and they're looking strong and sturdy. We have "one more" freeze (the weather people say) tonight or tomorrow, then out they go again! :) Thank you Douglas SO MUCH -- my heart was broken because they were dying, but you helped me saved all 5 of my tomatoes! Even the Purple Cherokee was almost dead, but now it has new growth and looks much healthier!!! GREAT ADVICE to dig them up.... YAY!!

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Apr 02, 2013
    I'm glad it worked, Julie. Purple Cherokee is a yummy tomato.

  • Julie Julie on Apr 02, 2013
    Yes, it's one of my favorites! So is Pink Brandywine :) YUM! It's COLD DAY here today...3:30 pm and it's 39 degrees, windy, and rainy... glad they're in the house with us! But we have high 70s/low 80s coming this weekend, weird....

  • Gar123700 Gar123700 on Apr 03, 2013
    Today, 4/3.. I saw the pop up hamper bought at Big Lots for covering plants! What a creative and awesome idea!.. folds flat to store for winter! This is pretty cool. I think the landscape fabric idea will bow to this one .. this year!