That time of year is upon us once again. No, I am not referring to the holidays but talking about watching out for freezes that can possibly damage our plants. Freezes occur when the temperature gets at or below… you guessed it, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at or below 32 degrees the plant has the possibility of being affected by freeze damage. When freeze damage occurs, the water that is in the plant, but outside the cells freezes. This places pressure on the cells, and can possibly cause plant die back or death.
Here in Nacogdoches and the surrounding area, the average time frame to experience freezes are between November 16th and March 19th. The following list is by no means is all encompassing but provides some points of reference.
Cover: While many shrubs and perennial plants may be able to tolerate the cold, but to try and save blooms or just to provide additional means of protection cover plants with sheets or blankets. Make sure to secure the blankets and sheets down with bricks or stones.
Mulch: Before Winter or first freeze, place a layer of mulch around the base of any desirable plants. This will act as a blanket for the plants roots and crown, insulating it to help withstand freezes.
Water: In absence of a good rain, water well the day or night before a freeze. The moist soil and higher humidity around the plants will moderate temperature extremes Water can act as a “heat sink”, meaning it helps to store heat then releases it slowly. Placing containers of water such as buckets, gallon jugs, or even drums around the plants will also create this heat sink effect. While doing this will help, it should not be used as the sole protection method for your plants.
Walls, or other structures may also aid in protecting your plants by stopping wind and possibly acting as heat sink sources. Small plants can be placed inside during the night and then placed back outside as temperatures rise. Be sure to check weather forecasts to see whether to expect a freeze.
For more on plant care, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (936) 560-7711, or visit our website at http://nacogdoches.agrilife.org