Is it Christmas or Fourth of July? Don’t ask Mother Nature

Published 2:27 pm Saturday, December 15, 2007

Based on recent weather patterns it is hard to determine whether we are preparing for Christmas or the 4th of July. These 80 degree days in December are great for being outdoors, but they have disadvantages. Like everything in life we have to take the good with the bad, we can’t just have it all.

Q. Are these warm temperatures good for plants?

The recent pattern of cool fronts stalling in Mississippi and becoming warm fronts with accompanying cloudy, drizzly, foggy conditions enhances the conditions for fungal and bacterial growth on plants. Watch for black spot on roses, downy mildew on crucifers in the vegetable garden, and various foliar diseases on anything currently growing. Many plants respond to the warm temperatures with a flush of new growth. This new growth will be particularly vulnerable to damage when the next cold front comes through. Plants which normally are not damaged by frosts and light freezes may need to be protected. If your summer plants and lawns are exhibiting new growth, this is not good. These plants are expending stored energy to develop the new growth that would normally be reserved until spring. If plants start growing again they use up stored energy, the good things is as they grow they start to store more energy again in their roots, however if it is destroyed before the reserves are replenished there will be a less vigorous growth next spring. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about the weather.

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Q. Do warm December days affect vegetables?

Some vegetables are particularly vulnerable to the unseasonably warm conditions. They are not adapted to grow in warm conditions and do not have enough root volume to supply the water needed to cool the plant. Now the atmosphere is wet, but the soil is dry. These conditions encourage low water uptake which can lead to the various manifestations of calcium deficiency. In lettuce and greens the browning of leaf margins may be obvious. Cabbage, however, will have one of the leaves inside the head die and it is not obvious until the head is cut. If you have not received any of the scattered showers in the area, the solution is to irrigate so the plant is not too stressed to absorb enough water to meet the plants needs for cooling. I do not see this as a major threat now, but if we continue to have these above average days for extended periods your vegetables may need help.

Q. How can I make my Christmas tree last until the New Year?

When cared for properly, a Christmas tree should last about five weeks. The key is water intake. When getting a new tree home the first thing to do is cut about one inch off the base. Use a stand that will allow you to put about a gallon of water into the base, be sure to monitor daily and keep water in the base. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. You can buy commercially prepared mixes like aspirin, sugar and other additives to mix into the water, however research has proven that regular tap water works just as well and will keep your tree fresh.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service.