There are many ways to protect peas from frost, such as covering them, keeping them warm, or insulating them with simple mulch mixtures. Peas are not overly sensitive to frost. They thrive in cool, damp weather. So, most varieties of peas tolerate light frosts well. Even though they adapt well to the cold, it is important to take precautions when frosts are predicted.
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4 Ways to Protect Peas from Frost
Harsh frosts can work havoc on your pea plants, making them inedible. Fortunately, with some simple preparation, you can guard your peas against frost and wind damage to ensure they do not die prematurely. Follow the 4 tips below to protect your peas from frost.
Cover Your Plants at Dusk
A tried-and-true way to protect peas from frost is to use a covering to act as a barrier between the peas and the wind and chill. A garden blanket, commercial plant tarp, or even a length of burlap or an old bedsheet will do.
- Cover your pea plants with a commercial tarp, bedsheet, or garden blanket at dusk.
- Stretch the cover over these hoops to keep the material from coming in contact with the plants.
- Use rocks or bricks to weigh down the corners of the blanket or tarp.
Use hoops or stakes to keep the material from touching the plants, and weigh the corners down with rocks or bricks to keep them from blowing up in the wind. It’s essential that any plant covers are not allowed to touch the plants themselves, since this can actually worsen first damage. As long as the covering material is suspended on a frame over the plants, your peas will be well protected from frost.
Keep Your Plants Warm With Water Jugs
A great way to keep your peas warm through a harsh frost is to fill ordinary gallon-size, plastic milk or water jugs with warm water. Alternatively, you can set them outside during the day so that the water absorbs heat from the sun.
- Place jugs of warm water around your pea plants at sundown.
- Cover the plants and jugs with a tarp, like in the previous tip.
- The warm water under the tarp will release steady warmth throughout the night, which prevents frost damage.
Prior to sundown, place the jugs around your pea plants and throw a cover over both the jugs and the plants: A plant tarp or garden blanket on top of a frame will work fine. The warmth emitted by the water jugs will help protect your peas from frost. Since water loses heat at a slower rate than air and soil, the warming effects will last for hours.
Insulate Your Peas With Thick Layers of Mulch
Insulating your peas with mulch is one of the easiest and most cost-effective techniques to protect them from frost. Spread a 4-inch thick (10 cm) layer of mulch or shredded leaves around the base of your pea plants. Organic mulches, such as wood chips, bark, and straw provide better insulation than stone or gravel mulch.
- Spread a layer of mulch that is 4 inches thick (10 cm) around the base of your pea plants.
- Leave half an inch (1 cm) of space at the bottom to avoid rot or mildew.
- Mulch helps to insulate the soil against temperature changes, which prevents frozen soil and root damage.
If you prefer, you can even recycle items such as newspapers for mulch. A thick mulch layer creates a protective barrier against frost. This keeps the root systems of your pea plants safe from freezing and severe damage. Make sure to leave half an inch of unmulched space ( 1 cm) around the base of each pea plant to avoid trapping moisture that could cause mildew or rot.
Avoid Watering for Several Days in Advance of a Frost
It is critical to keep peas well watered throughout the growing season to ensure the best possible crop. It is important, though, to avoid watering your plants for several days if a frost is predicted.
- Don’t water your peas for several days prior to a frost.
- Frost adds moisture to the ground and to the peas themselves.
- Water your peas thoroughly two days before a frost for the best results.
This may seem counterproductive, but one of the effects of a frost is added moisture, both to the ground and the plants themselves. Therefore, if you water them the day before or the same day a frost occurs, your peas are in peril of fast-onset root rot. Instead, water them thoroughly 48 hours before a predicted frost.
Does Frost Hurt Peas?
Even though frost will not always kill your pea plants, frost does hurt peas in many circumstances. Young plants are more susceptible to frost damage, since their shallow roots are more prone to freezing during a sudden cold snap.
- Peas are more frost-hardy than most other garden vegetables, but they are not immune to frost damage.
- Frost can hurt peas and make them inedible.
- All peas need some protection from frost.
Depending on the harshness of the frost, damage can be minor, such as wilting or discoloration. However, frost damage can also be far more severe, turning your plants into mush, ruining your harvest, and making your peas inedible.
When Should You Protect Peas from Frost?
Because peas are frost-tolerant, it is not necessary to protect them from light frosts or mild drops in temperature. In some cases, depending on the variety, certain peas will even develop a more potent flavor if they are exposed to one or two mild frosts.
- Peas are frost-tolerant, but it’s still a good idea to protect them from frost.
- All varieties of peas need protection from prolonged frost.
- You should protect your peas if temperatures dip below 28℉ (-2℃).
If temperatures dip below 28℉ (-2℃, or if a prolonged frost is predicted, you should offer your peas suitable protection. Most garden peas, snap peas, and even snow peas need first protection. Austrian winter peas are more cold-resistant, but they are seldom grown for human consumption.
How to Cover Peas from Frost
There are several techniques you can use to cover your peas from frost. Implement one or more of the following to keep them safe from plunging temperatures:
- Cover your peas with blankets or plant tarps when frosts are predicted.
- Place gallon-sized plastic jugs filled with warm water alongside your peas under the plant tarps to provide radiant heat that keeps frost at bay.
- Insulate the soil around your peas with a 4-inch-deep (10 cm) layer of mulch.
- Avoid watering your peas for approximately 48 hours prior to a frost.
- Cover your peas at dusk when frost is in the forecast.
With these tactics, you’ll protect your young pea crop from the danger of frost and cold temperatures. By remaining vigilant in spring and fall—when frost is most likely—you can act quickly to protect your garden peas from cold weather.