Frost sometimes comes when you least expect it, especially in spring. The problem is that a weather phenomenon like spring frost and late frosts can take a heavy toll on construction and agriculture. Seeing a thin white layer on your plants on a beautiful morning in April or May does not bode well for any garden. But what is a spring frost and how can we anticipate them?
A well-known weather phenomenon with serious consequences
Spring frost is mainly a problem for vine growers. It is particularly in this area that the term is used, and people without an in-depth knowledge of gardening are most likely not familiar with it. The frosts that cause plants to freeze in March, April and May (in the climate of the northern hemisphere and other countries) are simply called spring frosts.
Why is this type of frost important? Its temperature is the same as that of other frosts, of course, but the problem is that it arrives after winter, in the spring season when average temperatures are expected to be higher. At this time of year, it hits the buds of vines and all other fruit trees hard, and they are vulnerable because once they break, there is no protective shell to keep them safe from the cold air at low temperatures.
Less severe than its winter counterpart, spring frost is not as cold on average and lasts for a shorter period. But it depends on the level of humidity: the temperature at which the crops are at risk varies. In cases of low humidity, i.e. below 60%, the risk is slightly above -4 degrees. But one hour's exposure to frost at a temperature of -2 degrees is enough to cause damage to a plant when the humidity level is above 60%!
The disastrous consequences of spring frost
Vines are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon. Wine and fruit producers in general often pay a high price when frost hits at a later date than expected. In fact, the buds and young leaves can be destroyed quickly if a plant is allowed to freeze, much to the dismay of winegrowers and winemakers. For example, a temperature of -2 degrees can be enough to cause considerable damage to a garden or vineyard in March or April.
The destructive consequences are even more dramatic in years when the vines are developing early. In the middle of their budding process, the tender plants are then hit by the frost. This means that vineyard produce is low in years when spring frost strikes and causes damage to the crop.
In the building and construction sector, frost that occurs after the arrival of the warm weather can also be a surprise and cause problems. Indeed, the construction sector is governed by specific rules due to the frost sensitivity of certain materials.
So how do you fight spring frost and prevent it from causing major damage to crops and construction?
Getting accurate information about the weather forecast allows you to anticipate and protect yourself from spring frost. With the Netatmo Smart Weather Station, get ahead of the game and be informed in real time of the risk of frost for a given date in the coming days. This will give you more time to prepare, while keeping you informed of the evolution of the situation in your vineyard or garden.
How to tackle spring frost
There are solutions against spring frost, especially in vineyards. Here is a list. Opinions differ, but these are tried and tested solutions for dealing with frost early in the year.
Anticipating frosts with accurate weather forecasts
Anticipation is the first solution against frost. By using a barometer, a weather station, or by asking specific weather services if low temperatures are on the way, you can save time. Anticipating cold weather is a good way to implement various protections for your vines or your building.
This first solution can be interesting in terms of price: you could protect your garden from the cold for about £100. And you can check the weather forecast for free!
Sprinkling, or the igloo technique to protect vines from frost
There are protective techniques to help fight frost and warm up the air. This method involves sprinkling the vine with water at the very moment that frost starts to form. The purpose is simple in terms of physics: to create an icy envelope around the fragile buds and young shoots to protect them from frost. The principle of operation is the same as that of an igloo.
It is also common to use candles (but not scented candles) and heaters to fight spring frosts in vineyards. The well-known technique used by winegrowers consists of placing these candles and heaters between the rows of vines to maintain sufficient heat at the foot of the vines and thus avoid frost causing damage in the growing season.
Here you have to consider a range of information, such as the price of all the products to be purchased and installed, choose the brand carefully, and get an estimate for each one.
Use propellers from antifreeze towers and helicopters to stir the air
In recent years, late frosts in March and April have not spared British winegrowers. Some English vineyards have used antifreeze towers to protect their crops and keep their produce safe from the cold. For this, the propeller blows the warm air back towards the vines. Helicopters are used according to the same principle: to stir the air just above the vines. But these propeller solutions come at a higher price than the ideas suggested above, that much is for sure…
Gardeners, construction workers, winegrowers… spring frost is a cunning enemy. But fortunately, there are solutions for keeping your growing plants safe from the cold! You can find a way to protect your products from late frosts at all price points.