In most situations normally in late summer and early fall, plants will start to cold acclimate themselves in preparing for winter. This process starts when the weather gets cooler and the days start to get shorter.
You want cold acclimation to happen properly which means if it happens too early in the year, the growing season will be shorter or if the acclimation is too late then the plant can be hurt by early frosts. The timing and extent of cold acclimation is affected by the weather in your area, the type of plants grown and also management practices for the plants during the active growing seasons.
Today, I will share information from a UGA publication by my friend, Bob Westerfield, UGA Horticulturist and Dr. Orville Lindstrom, Professor of Horticulture. Our point of discussion will be on ways to prevent cold damage.
Obviously, the first way to cut down on cold damage is the selection of plants that you will grow. Select plants that will tolerate cold in your area. Choose plants that meet the minimum cold hardy requirements for our area. Don’t forget to think about if the plants you choose will handle the summer heat in Georgia too. It is suggested to also look at your overall home site and see what are the warmest and coldest spots on your property when selecting planting sites.
Don’t forget if your plant needs to be planted in sun or shade areas. You can also look at areas on your property where plants will get protection from other larger plants or the structure of the house or a building.
Another key to plant winter protection is correct nutrition of the plant. A properly fertilized plant should be healthier and should be more able to acclimate to cold temperatures. Fertilizing at the right time is important too.
Do note that fertilizing plants in fall with a fertilizer high in nitrogen can cause a flush of new growth that will make the plant more inclined to cold damage.
The time you prune and transplant plants is important too. Stay away from pruning in late summer or early fall for most items. This will stimulate the plant to put on new growth that will be more susceptible to cold damage.
Make sure you study up on your particular plant to know when it is the proper time to prune. If you transplant a plant in late fall or early winter, you can make the item more susceptible to cold injury. You need to transplant in early fall.
You may notice that it seems to get so much colder at times on those clear nights. On clear nights with calm winds, you can get more heat loss from surfaces. Westerfield and Lindstrom state that canopies can help reduce radiant heat loss from the plants and soil. Plants grown in shade areas are also at times less susceptible to drying out than items grown in full sun.
Windbreaks can also be helpful in protecting plants from cold damage. Windbreaks such as a fences, buildings or an evergreen can reduce potential damage of cold winds and freezes. Many folks grow container plants. The neat thing about container plants is that they can be moved inside a garage or home for example to get protected at times. Just don’t forget about your container plants. Their root system is more exposed due to being above grown. You have some options with container plants.
If you have multiple container plants, you can push the containers together and either mulch them to reduce heat loss from the container or wrap the base of the containers in burlap, plastic or even blankets. Mulching plants grown in the ground can help them reduce heat loss. If you plan on covering the plants during a cold snap use items like cardboard boxes, blankets or sheets.
Uncover during the day to allow for ventilation and allow for the release of the trapped radiate heat. Stay away from covering with plastic because it can cause too fast of a heat build-up.
If a period of cold temperatures is predicted, you may need to check to see if you plant need watering and if so water accordingly. A moist soil according to Westerfield and Lindstrom will absorb more heat, which will help keep the temperature higher around the plants. Note too that mulching the base of plants will help retain soil moisture. For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email email@example.com.