How to Use Sprinklers to Protect Plants from Frost

How to Use Sprinklers to Protect Plants from Frost

Oct 11th 2023

Frost can be a major threat to plants and lead to the loss of an entire plant if not appropriately handled. Each winter is setting new records for severe temperatures and late cold snaps. As a result, many farmers and gardeners who had never considered frost protection before are exploring methods. Fortunately, there is an effective and proven method of protecting your crops from frost damage: using sprinklers. When the predicted lows are below freezing, sprinklers can be used to protect crops from freezing.

Sprinkler irrigation is among the most economical options for frost control than expensive and wasteful heaters. Compared to other available systems, this irrigation system can provide the highest level of protection. Spraying your crops with constant water from above is a tried-and-true method to stop frost injury.

More people are turning to overhead irrigation because it can protect crops from frost injury, but most people don't understand how this works. If you're one of them, no need to worry. This blog will teach you how to use sprinklers properly to protect your plants from frost damage. Read on to find out!

Sprinklers For Frost Protection: How Does it Work

Protecting crops from frost damage using sprinklers is all about physics. It works through a process known as "latent heat of fusion." As water freezes, it releases a small amount of latent heat, which keeps the air around plants warm. When sprinklers are turned on during frosty nights, they deliver a continuous stream of water to the plants. This water freezes and releases heat, which keeps the plant temperature above freezing and prevents frost damage.

For 1 gram (0.03 ounces) of water, 80 calories of heat are released. Additionally, a thin layer of ice is formed on the leaves that is constantly developing and melting so that water within the plant cells won't freeze and the air temperature surrounding the plant will not drop below freezing point. Sprinkler irrigation provides a 2 -5-degree temperature difference, which is enough to protect the crops. As long as water is delivered at a sufficient rate, the plant's temperature will remain at or closer to 32° F (0° C).

How to Use Sprinkler System for Frost Protection

When planning an overhead irrigation system for frost protection, here are the factors to consider for getting positive results from sprinklers and not harming your crops.

Monitor Weather Conditions

First and foremost, check the weather forecasts routinely before the frost season starts, especially in early fall and late spring. Pay close attention to minimum temperature predictions and be ready to start the system when frost is expected. Monitoring the temperature will help you decide whether protection is required and when to take action.

Choose the Right Sprinklers

Choosing the right sprinklers is crucial for effective frost protection. Look for sprinklers with a large coverage area so that they will evenly distribute water across your plants. Wobblers or rotary sprinklers are often the best choices for this purpose, as they can cover a wide area.

At DripWorks, we have a range of rotor sprinklers and mini wobblers that are highly effective in frost protection. Mini Wobblers apply a consistent and even layer of water over a large area of plants at low pressure to keep them constantly covered in ice. These sprinklers provide uniform watering and prevent abrupt loss of heat. The low-angle trajectory and droplets formed by these sprinklers are large enough to reduce wind drift but gentle enough not to harm the plants. Their constant wobbling action minimizes ice buildup and keeps the sprinkler from freezing.

Check Air Humidity and Wind Speed

By applying the water at the perfect time, you can catch your plants before frost damage occurs and reduce moisture waste. However, to protect your plants properly, you need to be aware of wet bulb temperature that is found based on air humidity and dew point.

In addition, you have to check the wind speed. The Wind promotes the transformation of the water from the liquid phase into the vapor, and when this happens, heat in the air and surrounding plants will be spent in an endothermic reaction. Therefore, it is recommended not to use sprinklers when the wind speed is above 10 mph.

It is best to use a reliable weather reporting source in your area to check the dew point, wind speed, and temperature so you can determine the ideal time to turn on the sprinkler system for a more significant effect.

Position Sprinklers Properly

It is essential to make sure water is applied to plants continuously. To ensure that all your plants receive proper coverage, the sprinkler system should be properly placed. For it, set up the sprinklers at a suitable height so that they can reach all the plants.

Additionally, evenly space the sprinklers to ensure consistent coverage across the crops. The spray pattern of the sprinklers should slightly overlap to prevent leaving any gaps without protection.

Wet the Soil

Another important thing to prevent frost damage from ruining your plants is wetting the soil. The primary goal of winter irrigation is to wet leaves, apical tips, buds, and other above-soil parts of a plant to control frost damage. However, to protect plants and keep the surrounding temperature warmer, fully wetting the soil is also necessary. This step is crucial because dry soil has lots of air pockets, which are ineffective as insulation.

Soaking the soil until it is holding the appropriate amount of moisture closes these openings, which keeps the soil warmer even if it freezes. In addition, wet soil helps the ground absorb heat more quickly as the sun rises after a frost.

Check Plants Regularly

Last but not least, check your plants frequently when the sprinklers are running to make sure the ice layer is forming, and plants are adequately protected. Focus on the frost-sensitive areas such as delicate flowers and tips of leaves.

The Bottom Line

Sprinklers can protect your plants from frost and help your garden thrive even in the chilly season. Sprinkler irrigation has multiple benefits, such as cheaper operating costs, ease of usage, and multiple uses, including heat suppression, drought prevention, and the potential for limb breaking from large ice loads. Follow these steps, keep track of your local weather, and follow the frost alerts to know when the protection is required and when to start the system.

At DripWorks, we have a wide range of sprinklers that will help you protect your plants from frost damage this winter and spring. If you have any queries or concerns regarding setting up your irrigation system, you can reach us at 1-800-522-3747.