Rules to live by in the cold

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last week, I complained about the temperatures in the upper 20s this week we get rain, sleet and snow. I have only been living in Natchez for two years and I have already seen snow twice. It took me 28 years to see it twice in South Louisiana. Obviously I cannot speak from much experience on this type of climate, but here are some common calls about the bad weather.

Q: How does this weather affect plants?

A: Although snow is not common in our area most of our cool season plants are not threatened by this much more than a cold 28 degree night. However it is always a good idea to move plants that can be moved indoors to reduce damage incurred by large temperature fluctuations and cover those young plants that are vulnerable to wide temperature fluctuations.

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If you have been keeping tulips or hyacinths in the refrigerator you need to be thinking about where to plant them soon. December is a good month to plant citrus or fruit trees, but it would not hurt to wait until we get back up in the upper 50s. You can also plant dormant shrubs like Indian Hawthorne, Azaleas, Camellias, Ligustrium or Hydrangea. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs now but you can cut the tops out of brown perennials and move damaged wood out of fruit trees. And please don’t forget to cut out the mistletoe if you can find it.

Q: How can we protect our animals if we don’t have adequate cover for them during the storms?

A: Animals are naturally designed to survive less desirable weather, but we have spent so many years domesticating them it is now our responsibility to assist them during these times. Dogs should be provided a good dry place to get out of the weather. I give my dogs houses and other things to get in, but them always seem to ignore them and when it is cold they go to the barn and cuddle up in the hay. Hay is a good easy cost effective way to provide dogs a way to bundle up in the cold weather.

Horses can usually withstand winter weather with minimal assistance, it is good to provide a cover or wind break when possible. However it is more important to have horses prepared for winter weather by making sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations and wormings. It is also important they are in good shape with a good body condition score. It is important if you are keeping your horses stalled to provide them with a quality hay selection and try to keep the stall clean. If you use a blanket be sure to take it off from time to time to prevent skin diseases and funguses from forming under the blanket.

You can monitor your horses’ weight by simply rubbing your hands over the rib cage. In the winter horses grow a thick winter coat that can hide many problems so using your hand will assist in overlooking a pretty hair coat for declining health. If you can feel your horses’ ribcage you may need to slowly increase his feed or hay intake.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extensions Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.