Fluctuating temps have you down?

Published 10:56 pm Saturday, January 19, 2008

I cannot speak for everyone but personally these up and down temperature fluctuations drive me crazy, but it can be even worse on your plants.

In a two-week period we have seen temperatures go from the mid 70s to upper 20s then back up to the upper 60s and back down to the lower 30s. This is great for making buds swell and plants flourish just enough to get a freeze and kill new growth.

All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best in some circumstances.

Email newsletter signup

The well established trees and shrubs at your home should make it through the winter fine, but I would pay closer attention to gardens, flowerbeds, and landscape plants that were recently planted within the last year. A few weeks ago I mentioned ways to help prepare plants for the cold.

I received a few additional calls on protecting vegetables and additional freeze preparation options.

What do I do if my vegetables are already putting out flowers already?

Most of the cool season vegetable we plant in Mississippi can survive freezing temperature, but the constant temperature fluctuations can be brutal for some vegetables.

Turnips are a good example of a plant you may see suffering.

Constant changing temperatures will cause some plant to stop growing leaves, send sugar to the storage root and send up a flower stalk.

Once you see the stem elongating you have a decision to make. You can harvest the greens or root immediately or you can allow the flowers to develop to provide food for bees.

This premature flowering is called bolting and can occur with any of the crucifers and onions.

So keep an eye on the vegetable garden and decide to feed yourself or the bees when flower stalks arise.

Should I water plants in the winter before freezing temperatures?

Great question!

Plants are not like people, they need water on them even in the most extreme temperatures.

If the ground becomes dry around your evergreens and severe cold weather is forecasted, water thoroughly before the ground freezes.

The roots are not able to take up moisture when the soil is frozen.

Thoroughly watering landscape plants before a freeze reduces the chance of freeze damage.

Many times cold weather is accompanied by strong, dry winds. These winds cause damage by drying plants out, and watering helps to prevent this.

A well-watered soil will also absorb more solar radiation than dry soil and will re-radiate the heat during the night.

Obviously, this is not a huge concern at this moment with all the recent rains but in the future this is something you may want to consider if you have weak plants in your yard.

David Carter is the diector of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached by phone at 601-445-8201 or by e-mail at dcarter@ext.msstate.edu.