It seems like yesterday it was hot and dry. What a difference a few weeks make. Temperatures in the 30s are predicted for this weekend. It’s time to winterize your garden.
The average first frost date for Angelina County is Nov. 15. Frosts occur on nights when it is clear and calm, causing warm air to rise and cold air to sink. Temperatures in low spots will be colder since cold air moves downhill like water and “puddles.” Freezes occur during the winter months when masses of arctic air are moved in by the wind, which makes the temperature the same at all levels.
Tropical plants such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, mandevilla, most succulents and Christmas cactus need to be moved inside when temperatures reach the mid-40s. Trim dead leaves, clean the pot and remove insects with a blast of water. Place in a bright spot in the house or near a sunny garage window.
Prune tropical hibiscus back by about one-third. Bougainvillea will become dormant and will survive without bright light, so move it into the garage and water it just enough to keep it from completely drying out.
If moving tropical plants inside is too much trouble, consider planting native hibiscus next year which will die back in winter and come back from the roots in spring.
Plants are damaged the most when temperatures drop rapidly and ice crystals form within the plant. There are several things you can do to prevent frost damage.
Mulch with three inches of pine straw or chopped leaves. Well-hydrated plants survive freezing temperatures better, so if soil is dry, water plants. When a frost is expected, cover tender plants with old sheets, blankets or cardboard boxes. Store old sheets and blankets in a convenient place so you are ready when temperatures drop. It’s no fun to look for supplies on a cold autumn evening.
Leave coverings in place a few hours after sunrise to allow plants to warm up slowly. Avoid using plastic because it is a poor insulator and, in the morning, it will allow the sun to warm plants too quickly. Do not wash frost off leaves with water, as this also will damage plants.
Cluster potted plants close together near the house. Native potted ferns will come back from the roots next spring. Mulch the pots with a few inches of pine straw or chopped leaves. Potted Boston ferns, or any ferns that are not cold hardy should be moved into the house or garage.
Take cuttings of bedding plants, such as coleus and begonias to root. Both of these root easily. Use a good potting mix that is damp like a wrung-out sponge. Take cuttings that include several leaf nodes, or the area where new leaves grow. Strip all the leaves except a few at the top. Use rooting hormone and dip the cutting into the powder. Make a hole in the potting mix with a pencil and insert cutting. Keep soil moist and grow in a windowsill or under a grow light this winter. You will have new plants to set out next spring.