I know we are still experiencing warmer than normal temperatures. Sometime in the near future that will begin to change and we will be hit with some cold temperatures that could fall below freezing. Here are some tips on what to look for and how to cope with it.
After a freeze, you may see plants that are shedding their leaves excessively or possibly plants that are showing signs of wilted looking leaves. In some extreme cases, you might have plants that have lost all their foliage completely.
Upon inspection, your first reaction may be that of a panic attack as you see your prized plants damaged. Your first reaction is most likely going to be to trim off all the old leaves and stems that are dead and damaged. The best advice I can give is not to do it just yet. Leave the dead or damaged leaves and branches as they are for now. In a few weeks when all danger of frost and freeze warnings are over, start your regime of trimming back the damaged plants. This will give the plants a good start for the brisk spring growing season.
If you happen to have plants that have little or no foliage, don't give up on them just yet.
First, check to be sure that you still have green just under the outer skin of the plant. You can do this by gently scraping a very small area of the skin away to see if the core is green or brown. If you still see a green core, there is a chance that the plant will come back to life.
If you are nursing a nearly dead plant back to health it is important not to add any harsh fertilizers as this may cause more harm them good. You should water the plant as usual and use a gentle plant starter fertilizer to help get the first set of leaves to pop out.
With El Nino in full swing, not only are we in danger of cold snaps but also to heavy rain. Normally, the winter months harbor plenty of dry weather but during El Nino years, above normal rainfall may be the rule. Certain annuals, such as impatience, can get fungus diseases and die if they are in standing water. The best way to prevent this is to raise your annual flowerbeds above your normal ground level. This is especially important if you are planting in an area that may flood during heavy rains. Raising the bar will help the plants to drain quicker and not be in pools of standing water for an extended period of time.
As you can see, El Nino years can bring about some definite gardening challenges but it also is the determining factor that can put the brakes on what would have been an exceptionally busy hurricane season.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.