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|Are You Ready
For our first bonifide freeze?
Yes, this message is coming to you a bit earlier than normal. (For those of you who read their email each and every day). That's because I'm worried that this Friday and Saturday night, freezing weather is going to take its toll.
Last year, at about this same time in the calendar, we had already distributed a couple of email tips regarding freezing weather and protecting susceptible plants. Here is a compilation of a lot of that material. If you got these email tips last year, please keep reading, because I've re-worked the info, and not everything is, as it was.
First, keep in mind that many of the evergreen shrubs are designed to take the kind of weather that will be chilling the air… plants like Azaleas, Roses, Hollies etc., should be just fine. I remember last year, one of the local television reporters told everyone to cover their azaleas on a night that was no lower than 28 degrees. YIKES! All I could do was cringe. There was no horticultural/plant expert on to back up what he was saying. The only time you might even think about covering azaleas, would be on freezing nights right before the blooms are about to pop - late February to early March. Or on freezing nights that could have sleet. Not now, when this cold weather is actually benefiting the azaleas. That's because they need cooler temps in December and January to produce better blooms in February and March. But please, do listen to the weather dudes and dudettes. However, do pay attention to the weather forecaster's information, only with a grain of salt. Personally, I think they predict on the cold side -- they'll predict 25-26 and it turns out only to be 28-29 -- but that's okay when it comes to protecting plants. Better safe than sorry! If you think I'm splitting hairs, or that 29 is just as bad as 25… read on.
For me, and horticulturally-speaking, the magic number that scares me into covering more than just tropicals is 25F. In other words, if it gets below 25, especially for several hours, I get busy covering plants. If it's 29 or 28 for an hour, I leave almost everything but tropicals alone. Palm trees such as the Queen Palms and newly planted Sago Palms are good examples of those that need protection below 25 degrees. Mother Nature would have to be in the teens to single digits for many hours to scare me enough to cover the vast majority of our landscape plants. Here are some general rules for checking such freeze damage on Tropicals and otherwise.
The leaves/fronds on almost all tropical plants are expendable. Don't panic, if you see brown leaves.
Look at the limbs for actual damage (Hibiscus & Bougainvillea are great examples) you'll be looking for gray, dark, nappy wood.
Then just trim past the damaged parts until you see green wood.
Trim such plants to a manageable level before the freeze, to make it easier to cover the plants before the actual freeze.
Soft tropicals like Ginger and Banana, cut back the mushy, brown areas to get back to live layers.
Heavily mulch the base, which provides a great insulation for the roots
Give all plants a good watering, keeping moisture and inevitably warmer temps near the roots.
Cover with sheets, blankets and frost covers (row covers).
Don't cover with just plastic or plastic tarps. You can use such plastic on top of the aforementioned sheets, blankets frost covers etc.
If you cover any plant on freezing nights, remember to on cover them if the temps are back above freezing during the day. They still need air and light.
If you have any other questions about what to cover and protect on freezing nights, don't hesitate to call me on the GardenLine weekends from 8 to noon, exclusively on Talkradio 950 KPRC.
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