The (Unfounded) Fear of Fall Freezes
By Paul James
When temperatures drop below freezing gardeners all across Green Country freak out, convinced that everything in their landscape is going to suddenly die overnight. I’ve already been asked a dozen times by friends and neighbors – and five complete strangers at the grocery store — whether they should cover their plants this week. And my response to all of them has been the same.
No. Freezes, even hard freezes this time of year are no big deal, at least so far as the vast majority of landscape plants are concerned. And remember that wind chills have no effect on plants.
Sure, annuals may take a hit, but sooner or later that happens every year around this time (it’s why they’re called annuals). And of course tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-season veggies, assuming you still have any growing, won’t survive. But cool-season veggies should be fine. Same goes for mums and pansies. If temps drop below 25 degrees in your area, the flowers of mums, pansies, and azaleas may take a hit, but the plants will survive.
Trees, shrubs, and perennials actually began preparing for winter several weeks ago as daylight hours started to decline by making physiological changes that enable them to survive freezes. Back in late August, they began to slow their growth and concentrate sugars to begin the process of dormancy, which they’ll continue to do in the weeks ahead. In other words, they’re ready for winter.
So there’s no need to worry about your landscape plants as we (and they) head in to winter. Of course, hard freezes in April or May are another story altogether, because they can be deadly to plants. Let’s just hope I don’t have to write that story come spring.
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