Cold, hard facts about a freeze


Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Taking cautionary steps and spending a few bucks could protect plants and pipes during the freeze of the next few nights.

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Bring in your pets and container plants from the cold.

The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures will drop into the mid-20s overnight. Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing for four to eight hours along the Interstate 75 corridor.

Forecasters predict the low temperature could drop below 20 degrees Wednesday night and near 30 degrees Thursday night. Freezing temperatures are expected to end by the weekend.

The weather service advises protecting plants, pipes and pets during a freeze. Local experts shared these tips to help that effort:

BRING IN PETS & PLANTS: The easiest advice is bring in pets and container plants. Judy Brown, manager of Garden Gate Nursery in Gainesville, said tropical plants are susceptible to cold and should be brought indoors if possible.

COVER PLANTS: Covering plants can add another layer of protection. Brown recommends a product called Frost Cloth, which sells for about $1.50 per linear foot.

She said a single layer can protect plants for 10 degrees below freezing and a second layer adds even more protection.

"You're more or less trapping the ground heat in," she said.

For beds of annual plants, she advises using pine straw, hay or leaf mulch as a ground cover.

WATER PLANTS: Watering outdoor plants can help during a freeze. A well-watered soil absorbs more solar radiation than dry soil, re-radiating heat during the night, according to Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.

Ensuring plants are watered can also help them avoid the stress of a freeze, Brown said. She recommends a thorough watering a day in advance of a freeze.

COVER PIPES: Insulating pipes can prevent them from bursting, said Bob Kavanaugh, general manager of B&H Plumbing Company in Gainesville.

"Anything that's exposed should be insulated," he said.

He recommends buying foam insulation from home improvement stores, which costs just a few dollars. He advises against just leaving outdoor faucets dripping, which he said isn't a foolproof method.

"It's really not a bad idea to just go ahead an insulate it," he said.

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