Preparing for the cold

“What can I do to protect my plants against the cold temperatures forecast for tonight?”

I actually changed the Question of the Week early this morning when I woke up to the revised weather forecast. Check your expected low temperatures for tonight (Thursday).

If your azaleas look like this already, you may be in Southeast Texas and maybe you won’t face a hard freeze tonight. But many of us will, and we need to protect tender vegetation whenever possible.

Things that come first to my mind…
When I heard how cold it was going to be in the Metroplex tonight, I looked at forecasts across the state. I decided I need to put this warning in place.

Here are things I will be doing quickly as soon as I finish typing this up:

Water all container plants that will have to spend the night outside. This includes shrubs that are in containers, pansies in pots, etc.

Disconnect all of those garden hoses and drain them. If possible, bring them into the garage.

Drain any hose-end sprinklers.

Re-cover outdoor faucets.

If your sprinkler system runs on “Manual” mode and does not have a freeze override, turn it to “Off” so you don’t cause a sheet of ice on the sidewalks, drive and streets.

Continued Below

Pansies and pinks handle freezing temperatures better than all the other cool-season annuals. If you have pots of other types, you may want to set them in the garage overnight.

If it’s going to drop only into the high 20s in your area, petunias, snapdragons, alyssum and other frost-hardy plants will probably be OK in pots. But if in doubt, either move them into the garage until the cold passes or at least snug them up against a wall outdoors.

Peaches and plums that are already showing color or in full flower should be OK if your area will only experience temperatures near 32F. But if you’re facing a hard freeze, don’t try anything heroic like spraying water on the trees or lighting fires beneath the trees. People do some incredibly damaging things to their trees as they try to protect one year’s fruit crop. Don’t be “that guy.” Professionals are set up with smudge pots and mist systems. Those are vitally different. Don’t try to simulate those at a consumer level.

Azaleas in bud, quince and roses already in flower, camellias in flower, flowerbeds, vegetables that are already growing: cover with frost cloth before temperatures drop below freezing (as in “the sooner the better”).

If you have a greenhouse, double check fuel levels and make sure you have a backup plan should the power go out.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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