Thursday, March 21, 2013

Protecting tender plants from this late freeze. Who done left that door open?

First, let's make sure the soil around the plants is moist but not mud bogging wet.


Watering landscape plants before a freeze will help protect them. A moist soil will absorb more solar energy than a dry soil and will reradiate heat during the night. A moist soil can raise minimum night temperatures in the canopy of plants by as much as 2°F.  However, prolonged waterlogged soil conditions will damage the root systems of most plants.


Second, cover your plants with sheets or plastic:


To cover tender plants left outdoors during a freeze is not always effective or practical.  However, it can help, but only if done right.  Improper cold protection via covering can be worse than not covering the plants at all.


Temperatures are usually only a few degrees warmer under the covering, this is often enough to get a sensitive plant through a cold night. Coverings protect more from frost than from extreme cold. Covers that extend to the ground and are not in contact with plant foliage can lessen cold injury by reducing radiant heat loss from the plant and the ground. Foliage in contact with the cover is often injured because of heat transfer from the foliage to the colder cover. Some examples of coverings are: cloth sheets, quilts or black plastic. It is necessary to remove plastic covers as soon as we starting warming up that next morning. A light bulb under a cover is a simple method of providing heat to tender plants in the garden or landscape.


Or cover with wheat or pine straw:


Wheat straw or pine straw can be scattered loosely over plants low to the ground and probably left during a cloudy cold day, but removed if the next day warms up. Wheat or pine straw can be removed with a leaf blower; however it will create a big mess to clean up.



Pruning should be delayed until new growth appears to ensure that live wood is not removed unless the plant was really tender and it looks like a pile of mush. Dead, unsightly leaves should be removed as soon as they turn. New growth and young branch tips may be damaged while older wood is free of injury. Cold injured wood can be identified by examining the tissue layer just under the bark for black or brown coloration. Prune these branches just past the point of discoloration.


Dog gone it I knew it was too good to be true, spring ain't sprung yet.


Keith Mickler is the County Coordinator and agriculture agent for The University of Georgia/Floyd County Cooperative Extension. Located at 12 East 4rg  Ave, Rome, GA 30161 (706) 295-6210. Office hours are Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. To obtain extension publications please visit our web site or contact your county Cooperative Extension office.

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