by Charlene Burgi
Little did I realize, while writing the blog last week, that we would all be experiencing such long-lasting frigid temperatures. The newscasts, Facebook posts, phone calls and emails all carried the same message—BRRRR, it is freezing outside.
And, everyone was right. Friends and family as far away as Pennsylvania, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Kansas or as close as Nevada, Modoc, Sonoma, Marin and Lassen Counties described the biting cold they experienced, and each trumped the other with their recorded temperatures. I think Modoc County took the prize at minus 25 degrees one morning.
We bundled up as we broke out our long johns and winter coats, boots, knit hats and scarves, but did we prepare our gardens for the blasting cold? Did our pipes get wrapped with insulation? Did conifers get a good drink of water before the freeze or our citrus and other frost-tender plants have a tent constructed over them with an oven light placed within the tent for added warmth?
While driving through town, I noted someone attempted to protect their frost-tender plant by wrapping it tightly in plastic. A form-fitting girdle (does anyone wear those anymore?) would not have fit any tighter. I shook my head as I drove away and thought about how all the parts of that plant in contact with the plastic will be dead.
My friend in Sonoma posted that her pipes were unprotected, froze and broke. I commiserated with her as our heat lamp in the well house couldn’t keep up with the subzero drop in temperature, causing a break in the very thick schedule 80 pipe coming from the well. Despite the lack of water in our homes, we prided ourselves for storing extra water for such emergencies.
The temperatures are predicted to increase this week. I missed the opportunity to discuss how we must prepare for winter! Is it too late to do anything for your garden now? No.
You can still prepare for winter. Sprays such as Cloud Cover will hold the moisture in the plant and protect the foliage from freezing. Read the directions first as it cannot be applied when the temperature is too low. Water conifers before we experience the next cold snap so the needles won’t dry out. Wrap exposed water pipes with pipe insulation. You may have lucked out this time, but exposed pipe is subject to breakage. Purchase a blanket for your backflow device if you have this equipment at your home or business. Do not—and I stress this again—do not prune away frost-damaged portions of your plants. The dead leaves will act as a blanket for the growth underneath. As unsightly as it may seem, wait until the danger of frost is over before pruning. We have several more months of winter to wade through and that blanket could save your plant. Install a thick layer of mulch around the root area of your plants, remembering to hold the mulch away from the trunks and stems of trees and plants to avoid rot.
And lastly, if you are feeding birds, keep the feeders full, suet available, and provide water for them to drink. I noticed the birds flocking to the horses’ water trough that has a heater inside. It was the only body of water that wasn’t frozen solid. It was then that the old water dish with a built-in heater was pulled out of the barn. Our little feathered friends were grateful for the thought of something a bit more shallow for them to perch upon.
This is a busy time of year—a time when our gardens often take a back seat in our schedules. Give a moment to inspect any damage and see what can be done to circumvent additional problems in the future. We still have a lot of winter to go!