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Pay attention to the weather!

by Janet Carson | February 8, 2021 at 7:14 a.m.

Gardeners Beware! I hope you have been paying attention to this week’s upcoming forecast.

We are about to head into a polar vortex (my words, not a weatherman’s). It is predicted to get cold and then colder still. In central Arkansas temperatures are predicted in the mid to low teens, for two days, but we don’t even get above freezing for two days. In the northern tier it is single digits, and the southern tier just slightly higher than central. To add insult to injury, there is a possibility of ice.

This would not be a problem in the middle of deep dormancy for our plants, but unfortunately, many plants got lulled into thinking spring was on the horizon and have started to emerge.

Plants are always much more sensitive to cold weather during their transition from dormancy to active growth in the spring, and active growth into dormancy in the fall. A gradual move into dormancy in the fall is best, and a gradual move into spring growth is best, but that is not what this week’s weather picture shows. We have a lot of blooming daffodils,

camellias with blooms

and buds showing color,

loropetalums with some flowers,

and even a few roses with flower buds.

Most concerning to me are the big leaf hydrangeas

and fig trees

which have had green buds now for weeks. There is no way you can protect every plant in your garden, if you have a large garden, but assess what is happening in your yard, and prioritize what is important, and what is possible. Large fruit trees or flowering trees are almost impossible to protect, but vegetable plants, and smaller shrubs can be covered easily.

You could also cut an early bouquet of tender flowers to enjoy indoors.

Knowing what to cover with makes all the difference. If you can keep the covering off of the plants (leaving a little air space) that is best. I use inverted boxes,

flower pots

and even an upturned wheelbarrow has worked before. I rig up some supports and cover with a tarp or frost blanket.

It looks to me like Thursday through Monday is when help is needed. You can cover them for several days without any problems. If you use clear plastic, you may need to vent it during the day on sunny days as it can build up too much heat.

You could cover with plastic (again tented) and then put a sheet over it to block the suns rays. Our yards may not be gorgeous while we are protecting what plants we can, but it is better than the alternative.

If you do have containers with marginal plants in them, they could be moved into a garage for a few days. Once the weather is over, you can inspect plants for damage, but don’t be too quick to remedy it. Wait to be sure winter is over before pruning out plant damage. It can serve as a buffer or protection and we can prune it off later. For February pruning chores, wait until late in the month, for the same reason. If you prune too early and cold weather damage happens, you end up having to prune even more. Then it will be a wait and see approach when spring does officially arrive and our plants start growing. We can always hope the weather forecast is wrong!

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