Tips for winter gardens
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 12:00 AM
Winter will be here officially in a couple of days and with that in mind it is time to give some consideration to what happens to our gardens at this time of year.
I think my garden plants have enjoyed the cooler temps of autumn as much as I have enjoyed them.
However as the weather becomes colder, we need to think about protecting our garden plants.
I suspect many of you have had to protect some plants already during a few cold snaps we have experienced.
Gardeners pay close attention to weather predictions of cold temperatures.
We often use the terms 'frost' and 'freeze' interchangeably because both refer to cold temperature events.
In reality, a frost and a freeze are completely different things.
Frosts rely on the amount of water in the air.
Two commonly used terms describe the amount of water in the air.
Relative humidity measures how much water is in the air compared to the maximum possible.
Warm air holds more water than cold air does.
Dew point is the absolute amount of water in the air.
The dew point is a constant for a given volume of air, regardless of variation in relative humidity.
When the temperature drops low enough, the air becomes saturated and the excess water that the air cannot hold condenses onto surfaces as dew.
Frosts typically occur when the skies are clear and there is a calm wind.
Heat absorbed by the soil and plants during the day is transferred or radiated to the air.
Calm wind conditions allow the surface temperatures to drop below freezing, while higher elevations remain warmer.
If the surface temperature and dew point are both below freezing, ice crystals will form on the cool surfaces.
Sometimes the air is too dry for ice crystals to form, but a frost event has still occurred.
A freeze occurs when the ambient outside air temperature falls below the freezing point of water - 32 degrees - long enough to cause potential plant damage.
A hard freeze occurs when temperatures stay below 28 degrees for several hours.
Freezes typically happen when cold air moves into a region.
Often significant winds and cloud cover are associated with a cold front moving into Mississippi from the north.
Freezes also can occur during calm conditions when the temperature drops rapidly.
But if there is little moisture in the air, temperatures below freezing will not produce frost.
Make sure your plants are well watered when cold temperatures are predicted.
As water freezes, it releases heat, which helps insulate root systems during cold snaps.
Also, maintain 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the base of your plants.
The mulch conserves water and acts as an insulation blanket for the roots.
Plants in containers can be moved indoors or into a garage or sheltered area when cold temperatures threaten.
If all you can do is place them on the patio up against your home, this too will provide some protection.
When freeze is imminent, cover in-ground plants with plastic sheets, cloths, boxes or something similar.
Ideally the foliage should not touch the covering.
You can use quick hoops to cover vegetable crops and protect them from potential cold weather damage.
So when cold weather threatens your landscapes, be ready to act quickly to protect your plants from freezing temperatures.
At our annual 4-H Christmas Party held recently we had nine 4-H'ers to compete in our homemade Christmas ornament competition.
They were Cayla Fortenberry, Chandler Fortenberry, Brody Pinter, Chloe Pinter, Casea Cheatham, Cody Cheatham, Steve Bowman, Katlyn Mooney and Thomas Ingram.
Top three placings were Chloe Pinter first, Steve Bowman second and Katlyn Mooney third. Congratulations to each of these 4-H'ers.
Dec. 21-Jan. 3 - County 4-H Office Closed for Christmas and New Yearís Holiday.
Until next week, Merry Christmas!