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Gardening With Laurie: Be prepared to protect plants during cold weather

By Victoria Advocate
Jan. 4, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 5, 2011 at 7:06 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

We have come to the time of year when many of our outdoor plants will probably need protection from the cold temperatures. I know how much work it can be to drag heavy pots to protected areas. It can also be a hassle it is to find ways to protect those overgrown, way-too-tall plants in containers. I know what a pain it is to undo all the covering the next day, so that your plants don't burn from getting too hot as the temperatures quickly warm up.

On the other hand, I know how much joy and satisfaction growing all kinds of different plants gives me. I know how exciting it is to grow my own avocados and citrus. I know how good it feels and tastes to bite into something I've grown without any harmful chemicals. I know how much pleasure I get when finding the first rosebuds emerge on my Belinda's Dream rose each spring.

Many of us gardeners love growing things that are not totally cold hardy. I know last winter caught many of us by surprise. Many people lost plants to the many hours of freezing temperatures.

So what do you do with your tender plants when cold weather threatens? Do you plan ahead, or are you out in the dark cold weather throwing all the quilts you could come up with over your plants? Here are some ways that will help you to properly protect those tender plants from freezing.

Be prepared. As mentioned above, it is no fun to be out on a dark, cold night trying to get all your plants covered. Start collecting old sheets and quilts from garage sales and second-hand stores. Garden centers sell frost fabrics that are reusable, easy to use, and can be left on the plants without fear of the plants burning when the temperatures heat back up. Also, stock up on several bags of old-fashioned, wooden clothes pins. These, along with bricks, can be used to hold your sheets or frost fabric in place. Keep in mind that when covering plants with plastic always put something between the plant and the plastic, so the foliage doesn't burn.

Before any really cold night, make sure all plants that need watering are well watered. A plant that is well hydrated has a better chance of withstanding cold temperatures.

Mulching your plants is always a good idea, for any season. Mulch can also help to protect plants on really cold nights. Leaves can be used for mulching I know many gardeners who collect their neighbors bagged leaves. When a freeze is predicted, you'll have extra leaves to pile up around plants to provide some protection.

On really cold nights, your potted plants should all be moved to protected areas. For pots that are too large to move, you need to first water them well, and then wrap the container and plant with your sheets or frost fabric. Those clothes pins will come in handy for this job.

If you have a tent that you use when camping, you can set it up and use it to help protect potted plants. Place all your potted plants inside and then place a 100 watt bulb inside to provide some heat.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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