As the last weeks of winter breeze through the area, gardening enthusiasts can take a few simple steps to protect their plants and shrubs from potential frost. Proactive gardeners can help their plants withstand freezing temperatures and the frost that often follows.
Because of the cold temperatures outside, it might not be as obvious that plants are in need of a good watering, just as in warmer weather.
"It's important to make sure that plants are well-hydrated," said Jenny Addie, a horticulturist at Green Thumb West Nursery and Garden Center in Martinez.
"This will help to protect the root system," Addie said, adding that a root system that is intact has a better chance of making it through a marginal frost.
Not only can mulch add a nice visual appeal to a landscape, but this too "helps to protect the root system," said Charles Phillips, an agriculture and natural resources agent for the Columbia County Extension Service.
In addition to hydrating and mulching plants and shrubbery, covering them provides the next best defense against frost.
"Use a towel, an old sheet or some type of cloth," Addie said.
The cloth will raise the temperature of the plant or shrub, helping it to endure colder temperatures.
"Two to three degrees can make a big difference," Phillips said.
When covering, be sure not to use plastic.
"Plastic actually acts as a greenhouse," Addie said. "It doesn't provide protection for the plant and may actually cause it to build up too much heat."
"Getting the covering on in enough time is also important for it to help the plant," Phillips added.
Covering plants in the evening will help keep heat trapped in and protect them from freezing.
The good news for gardeners in our area is that "most plants can survive the temperatures around here," Phillips said. "Most plants can endure temperatures as low as 15 to 20 degrees. It's the subtropical plants that may require special measures of protection."
The most obvious thing gardeners can do for plants, if possible, is bring them inside, Phillips said. Despite best efforts, should plants give way to frost, the plant might still be salvageable come spring.
Gardener Ruth Pearl, of Evans, who is particularly fond of chrysanthemums and day lilies, said she does not cut the dead foliage that might succumb to the winter elements.
"It's actually good for the birds," Pearl said.
"If you cut dead foliage right away, it may be more difficult to see the damaged areas," Addie said. "So waiting until spring to prune offers another advantage."
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