Suddenly, blue bottles of a product called FreezePruf are showing up on the doorsteps of garden writers and on the shelves of retail garden centers. And naturally, bloggers are writing about it, like one Buffalo, NY blogger at GardenRant. People are asking: What IS FreezePruf ? Does it really work and if so, for which plants?
First, What the Makers of FreezePruf Have to Say
FreezePruf protects both externally on the surface of the leaves, as well as systemically, by strengthening cell walls to prevent water loss. On average, FreezePruf adds two weeks in the spring to a plant's growing season, and another two in the fall. So no matter what zone you're in, it increases plant performance by about a half a USDA hardiness zone, or 5 degrees, with some plants showing increased hardiness by over 9 degrees. It can be applied just before a frost incident or every 4-6 weeks throughout the season.
The ingredients are either foodstuffs or products applied to foods during processing. A silicate formulation strengthens cell walls, and a polyalcohol formulation works as an emulsifier in cakes and has protective properties for plants, too. It's biodegradable, and also safe for pets.
Next, What the Inventor Has to Say - The Backstory
To find out more, I spoke with David Francko, the botanist who developed FreezePruf. Despite all the buzz about how the product can increase farmers' yields by giving them another 4 weeks of growing, that wasn't Francko's research goal at all. See, he's a gardener who loves tropicals, as evidenced by the book he wrote about Palms. His mission was simply to "push the zones". Kinda like space exploration, but for plant geeks.
So Francko and his team make this discovery, but then what's a researcher to do? Look for a company to bring your discovery to market - and that's not so easy. First Francko talked to a "large multinational" that wanted to do 3-5 years of in-house research before bringing it to market in order to document specifically what plants are affected and by how much - all research done to be done in their lab. "But who trusts in-house research results?," I asked. Francko was thinking the same thing but more importantly, would the lab results accurately predict gardeners' and farmers' results in the field and garden? Not necessarily. Also, that's a lot of delay, and Francko knew there was enough evidence already to make it available to the public.
Customers Contribute Findings
So he turned to a small company with a good reputation for eco-safe products, Liquid Fence (named for their deer repellant, which I'm testing in my back yard as I type). Francko is urging customers to try it and report their results to Liquid Fence - for uploading to their website, perhaps? As Francko says, "Growing conditions are different anyway, so just try it." I love the idea of gardeners and farmers contributing to our collective knowledge of products.
Research to Be Published Soon
The patent is pending on FreezePruf, and the application - filled with hard data from both lab and field studies - is available to the public. Also Francko tells me that a large paper reporting his findings will be published soon in a peer-reviewed publication. And his experiments continue, most recently on mature fruits and vegetables.
FreezePruf won a big thumb's up from the big kahuna garden center show in Chicago, which gave it the Best in Show prize last summer, which must have made some research botanists pretty darn happy. And Dr. Jeffrey Gillman, the much-published University of Minnesota horticulturist, has declared FreezePruf "very promising". For more, here's the Science Daily story about the product.
What Plants Should I Use it On?
When I asked Francko what growers in Maryland have discovered about this product he said the usually "tricky" windmill palm is growing just fine here with FreezePruf. And oh boy, I DO want more tropicals or zone-pushed plants in my garden, so I'll stay turned to reports of the efficacy of FreezePruf on plants in the Mid-Atlantic region especially.
Full Disclosure. Liquid Fence is a new sponsor of my website Sustainable and Urban Gardening and the companion blog and newsletter about the same subject. I haven't tried FreezePruf myself, and have just started trying the Liquid Fence deer repellent. No product reviews will be coming from my own experiments, though - potential conflicts of interest and all that. Transparency is great but it doesn't go far enough if bloggers recommend products they're receiving money for reviewing.