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Gardening with Laurie: Different kinds of freezes, different kinds or precautions

By By Laurie Garretson
Jan. 2, 2014 at midnight
Updated Jan. 1, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.


The past couple of weeks, I've been writing about the cold weather and ways to protect your landscape from cold damage. This week, I'll continue this subject with information about types of freezes and factors that can contribute to freeze damage.

There are basically two types of freezes; radiational and advective. Radiational freezes occur on cold, calm, clear nights. These conditions allow heat from objects and surface areas to radiate out into the environment. Covering tender plants helps to prevent heat loss and lessens damage.

An advective freeze comes down from the northern regions at a fast pace, drastically dropping temperatures. This type of cold front is usually accompanied by high winds. Advective freezes are the types that can catch us gardeners off guard.

Remember the times when it has been dark and cold and you're out fighting the wind trying to get all your tropical plants moved or covered? Advective cold fronts also tend to be much colder and last longer. This is when tropicals can really get damaged.

There can be several causes that play a big role in the amount of damage a plant gets from these types of freezes. Plants that are not tended to during the rest of the year and already suffer from drought stress will be more susceptible to cold damage.

Temperatures that suddenly drop from relatively mild to freezing can cause plant damage to even the hardiest of plants. On the other hand, having a gradual decrease in temperatures allows a plant to harden off. Hardening off gives a plant some added cold protection. Hardening off does not necessarily apply to especially tender plants.

Low temperatures lasting for longer periods of time are more apt to cause more damage. As cold conditions persist, heat that's stored in walls, plants and soils, which helps to moderate the surrounding temps, is depleted out into the atmosphere.

The location of a plant can make a difference in its over all ability to withstand a freeze. A bit of forethought when deciding where to plant tender or less hardy plants can contribute to how much damage the plants receive.

Planting in more sheltered areas that are blocked from the cold north winds will trap heat from the sun and provide added protection. Tree canopies and roof overhangs will provide added protection.

When it comes right down to it, the amount of damage any plant receives from the cold is all determined by the hardiness of the plant and just how cold it actually gets.

Organic fertilizers can be applied at any time of the year without any fear of burning any type of vegetation. Keeping your organic landscape well fed and watered certainly helps to provide nutrients and minerals that make for stronger, healthier plants and lawns.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, and 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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