The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening Science - Soils, Manure and the Environment
Chapter: Chapter 3: Heat, Light and Electricity

Coverings for frost protection

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1337. A very slight covering will exclude much cold. 'I had often,' observes Dr. Wells, 'in the pride of half knowledge, smiled at the means frequently employed by gardeners, to protect tender plants from cold, as it appeared to me impossible that a thin mat, or any such flimsy substance, could prevent them from attaining the temperature of the atmosphere, by which alone I thought them liable to be injured. But, when I had learned that bodies on the surface of the earth become, during a still and serene night, colder than the atmosphere, by radiating their heat to the heavens, I perceived immediately a just reason for the practice which I had before deemed useless. Being desirous, however, of acquiring some precise information on this subject, I fixed, perpendicularly, in the earth of a grass-plot, four small sticks, and over their upper extremities, which were six inches above the grass, and formed the corners of a square, the sides of which were two feet long, drew tightly a very thin cambric handkerchief. In this disposition of things, therefore, nothing existed to prevent the free passage of air from the exposed grass, to that which was sheltered, except the four small sticks, and there was no substance to radiate heat downwards to the latter grass, except the cambric handkerchief. The temperature of the grass which was thus shielded from the sky, was, upon many nights afterwards, examined by me, and was always found higher than that of neighbouring grass, which was uncovered, if this was colder than the air.'