How to Use Christmas Tree Lights to Protect Trees from Freezing and Frosts

Protecting Trees From Frost with Christmas Lights

How to Use Christmas Tree Lights to Protect Trees from Freezing and Frosts

I want to say it’s going to get crazy cold here, but I know that’s going to make a bunch of people either laugh or get irritated. Oh well. This is California. When temps drop into the 30s, it’s all over the news.

Go ahead, laugh.

Go ahead, laugh.

Also, this weather app estimates temps for some part of Fairfax that’s warmer than our house. When it says 36° or below, I know we’ll get frost. Last year, we had so many frosts and freezes that I got all tuckered out from dancing with giant covers for eight different trees — seven citrus and a baby apricot. Put them on at night, take them off in the morning, put them on at night, take them off in the morning, repeatedly obsessing about whether or not it’s going to get cold enough that I have to drag my butt outside in the dark to put them on at night, take them off in the morning.

Every year I read about protecting trees by stringing them with Christmas lights and I think, I want to try that, but then I’m too lazy to make it happen. This year, I decided that one burst of focused energy would be better than all those gyrations with the covers, and it’s on. I went out and bought seven boxes of [amazon_link id=”B002SDA4T4″ target=”_blank” ]outdoor-rated C7 lights[/amazon_link]. To give off enough heat, they have to be old-school, energy inefficient C7 or C9 lights, not LED lights. I strung them in all of my vulnerable trees, being sure to concentrate the bulbs around the trunk and in the lower branches. That way, the trunk is protected and the rest of the tree will catch the rising heat.

To protect the plugs from rain, I cut up plastic bags and used electrical tape to secure the plastic around each exposed plug and socket. (Not that we’re getting any rain, but that’s mostly a another story. The relevant part here is that, if it hasn’t been raining, remember to water plants deeply if a frost or freeze is expected. It’s one of the best things to do to keep them safe.)

There’s some risk to this experiment. A few of the citrus trees got confused by our unusually warm fall and went into furious bloom. I’m ready to accept that many of those blossoms won’t become fruit. Overall, I figure there may be some damage to the trees, but not death. And if we go into a prolonged period of hard freeze — say, a week or more — I’ll bring out the covers.

The other thing I’ll need to watch is our electricity bill. If it skyrockets, this will be a single season event.

Meanwhile, it’s very cheerful!

Using Christmas Tree Lights to Protect Citrus Trees from Frosts and Freezing

P.S. The other garden-related task I completed this week is reconditioning three pairs of sad and rusty pruning shears and snips. (That was another thing I’d put off for a long time. Now that it’s done, I’m very pleased and proud.) I followed these instructions from Weekend Gardener, which I found to be clear and easy.

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  • Reply marcia December 3, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Great suggestion. Last year our pipes froze on new year’s eve. I also danced with plastic and cotton sheets over outdoor succulents and frost-sensitive plants, and finally gave up. If I forgot to put the covers on, the plants froze. If I forgot to take them off, our place looked too ugly and I was often too cold or lazy or busy to remove them during the day. It’s too late for tonight’s projected frost to decorate with lights, so I might cover. I also water late at night and before dawn (automatically timed and sprinkled) and that’s supposed to protect the plants from freeze. Right now, I’m going to bring in the succulents from the patio and make a nice home for them in the living room. Thanks Shae. Marcia

    • Reply Shae December 3, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Thanks, Marcia! Yes, the watering is critical. I’m going to go back to the post and add a little note about that. :-)

  • Reply Julia December 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Well, I’d say getting into the 30s is pretty cold! But it’s true, we have already had some nights in the teens. Brr!

    I love your cheery little trees! It’s great timing for a great idea.

    • Reply Shae December 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Jules. I think of you, when I feel whiny about the cold. I don’t know from teens. Still, tonight our pipes could freeze and our little woodstove is working overtime. That’s plenty cold for me!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danissed December 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Nice to see you here, Shae.

    Stay warm little trees.

    • Reply Shae December 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      Nice to see you, too, Denise. The trees and I appreciate your kindness.

  • Reply Melissa December 4, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I love this! I’ve heard of this for Avocado trees as well. I’ve been checking the weather like crazy, its supposed to get down to 23 in Santa Rosa!

    Where did you find lights locally at all?

    • Reply Shae December 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Melissa! I found all the lights I needed at our local Ace Hardware; they had both C7 and the larger C9 lights. I think we might get down to about 28 here tonight, so the trees are all lit up. 23 is cold! Stay warm1

  • Reply Sue/the view from great island December 9, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Just discovered your blog, I love all the colorful jams. I’m down in LA and freezing, too!

    • Reply Shae December 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Thanks, Sue. Your blog is beautiful! It’s still freezing here, but supposed to warm up soon. I bet the cold is wreaking havoc on some crops down your way. :-(

  • Reply Grapefruit Honey Jam . . . Or Is it Marmalade? « Hitchhiking to Heaven February 13, 2014 at 8:12 am

    […] I wanted to quickly follow up on my post about saving citrus trees from freezes and frosts with Christmas lights. It worked fabulously well. The Rangpur limes are here to prove it . . […]

  • Reply Judy October 31, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Thank you so much for this blog. I live in San Rafael and am sick of trying to get my bouganvillia to survive every winter. I get my husband to religiously cover it and my 2 citrus’ every night (yeah i’m not the one working too hard) and low and behold one night the cover blows off during a freeze and it’s dead as a doornail in spring and has to get replaced. I am excited about using lights and also heard of a gadget called a thermo cube that turns the lights on and off when the temperatures hit 35 at Home depot (have to hunt this down)This is going to be an easy winter yeah!

    • Reply Shae October 31, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Judy: I’m glad you found this post. I’m just getting ready to string the trees again this year. This method worked so well last year that I wouldn’t consider doing it any other way at this point. Very intrigued by the thermo cube, We’re going to look for that. It would be nice to spare some of the electricity costs. I hope this works as well for you as it did for me!

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