Watch Out! It’s Winter!

Every time I looked at the weather forecast over the past several days, the weather people were calling for a degree or two colder tonight.

Here are my main concerns:
1. For many of us this will be the first freeze of the fall. In fact, in the DFW area and southward, it may be the first freeze since early January.

2. It has been unusually warm much of this fall, so plants really haven’t become fully acclimated to increasingly lower temperatures.

3. It’s unusually dry in most parts of Texas, and dry plants are usually more vulnerable to cold than plants that are properly hydrated.

Here’s what I would suggest you do now…
We are sending e-gardens out earlier than usual in the hopes you’ll see and heed these warnings.

Move container plants into protection. If they’re types that are likely to freeze and die, pull them into the garage for one or two nights. Otherwise, set them up against a south wall so they’re out of the north wind. If you can pile tree leaves up around the containers, that will help, too.

If your plants are dry, water them deeply this afternoon or early evening (before temperatures fall below freezing – I know: they already have in far North Texas).

Once you’re through watering, disconnect hoses from your faucets and drain them. Cover any faucets that are vulnerable to freezing.

Turn sprinkler systems to “Off” unless you are absolutely certain that the freeze guard is functioning properly.

Photo: I buy a tough brand of frost cloth that can be used one winter, then saved for another. We tag and store the pre-cut pieces for quickest placement in our landscape. (Photos from this morning.)

Photo: Cast iron plants are well protected from winter’s cold. Because we are in comparatively cold North Texas, I’ve left them covered like this for as many as 8 or 10 weeks in previous winters. I see almost no damage when I remove the covers at the end of the winter.

Pull lightweight frost cloth over the tops of winter annuals like pansies, snapdragons, pinks and ornamental cabbage if temperatures are forecast to drop below the mid-20s. These are available from local independent retail garden centers and hardware stores, but rarely at national chains. They can also be bought online.

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As an add-on, do not use roll plastic film (heats up too rapidly on sunny mornings resulting in worse damage than if plants were left uncovered). Old bed sheets offer some help in keeping drying winds off plants’ leaves. Secure covers to soil to keep them from blowing away.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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