Freezing temperatures aren’t something we have to worry about often on the Gulf Coast, but late January and early February are traditionally times when we may have a significant freeze or two. So let’s talk a bit about what to do for a hard freeze. Keep in mind most action is only needed for a hard freeze, If temperatures are only going to get to or under 32 degrees for a couple of hours or so, save yourself the hassle. Also, most perennial non-tropicals can take a bit of a freeze with no problem, especially if their roots are moist, which brings me to my first tip.
- Water and mulch plant roots well before a predicted freeze.
I admit it. I’m not a coverer. There, I have said it on the web, so now there is no going back. I try to plant things that are hardy and I use my leaves from the tree in my front yard as natural winter mulch. They are not that pretty, but they work. I crunch them up a bit by stepping on them or mulching them a bit with the mower. This helps them to lay flatter, so the wind won’t get under them & blow them around. You can also wet them. So if we have a nice wet winter like we’ve been having this year, that’s where my freeze preparation generally stops. Now all that being said, there are times when a freeze can be particularly more damaging. Those are the late season freezes like we had in March of 2014. The problem here is if we have had a mild winter, things are beginning to leaf out again by March and a freeze can really do damage to young shoots. So by all means, cover for a late season frost and for those of you who cannot rest easy if you do not cover now, here are a few more tips.
- Cover plants later than early and remove covers quickly when temperatures get above freezing. Coverings can burn plants if left on when too long or with quickly rising temperatures.
- Try to use breathable fabrics, such as sheets or special plant freeze covers. Avoid plastic and tarps which can burn plants. If you do use tarps, put a sheet over the plants first.
Those are the simple basics and about all you need to do. Remember, most plants are meant to have a dormancy stage during winter, meaning losing their leaves is a good thing. This gives the plant a chance to get stronger. Nature knows what it’s doing. When the weather starts getting warmer, make sure to give those plants that have gone dormant plenty of time to leaf out again. Many gardeners often make the mistake of yanking out things too early, thinking they are dead, when they really still just resting. Give them until April to show signs of life. For more about determining what to do after winter, see “Slow Start, or Dead Plant?” For now, grab a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy looking at your garden out of a window!
On the Grow is a garden coaching service launched by Janice Brown to teach people how to be successful gardeners in the sometimes difficult, Gulf Coast climate. On the Grow provides garden education for the home gardener, children in outdoor classrooms, neighbors in community gardens, and employees in workplace gardens. Whether you want a new idea for a girls’ night out, a new way to engage children in nature, or want to implement a fresh wellness program in your company, On the Grow is here for you. Your coach will take you step by step teaching you the basics, while presenting you with a fresh perspective by helping you experience the healing benefits of gardening. Our mission at On the Grow is to help everyone experience the joy of a garden and build a greater connection to Mother Earth. Connect with One The Grow on Facebook and Twitter!