Temps Forecast To Dip Below Freezing This Weekend, Tips To Protect Plants

Published Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 3:05 pm

By Jesse Wood

We’ve all felt the brisk air moving in the past week or so. And we all know it’s only going to get colder. The upcoming weekend, which features the Valle Country Fair and the Woolly Worm Festival, will be the coldest so far of the 2015-16 winter season.

In fact, RaysWeather.com dug into the archives and reported in its forecast discussion on Thursday morning that the upcoming weekend will feature the coldest temperatures the High Country has felt since March 29.

“Daytimes Saturday through Monday will be chilly. Nighttime will be downright cold with a hard freeze Saturday night through Monday night (into Tuesday night for deeper valleys). Say ‘goodbye’ to green,” RaysWeather.com noted in its latest forecast.

Friday features a low of 35 in Boone; Saturday features a low of 31; and Sunday features a low of 29.

Fortunately, there is plenty of sunshine in the forecast.

But it’s going to be cold, and all of those houseplants that have been enjoying the fall colors and sunshine will have to be moved inside.

Here are some tips for helping your cold sensitive landscape plants and cool season vegetables survive winter cold snaps, according to a 2014 blog by the N.C. Cooperate Extension:

  • If soils are dry, water the garden or landscape well at least a day before extreme cold sets in. Moist soil holds heat longer and is more insulating than dry soil. Due to recent rains, soil moisture levels should be good during this cold blast. Do not over water in winter – wet soils increase root and crown rot diseases.
  • Cover cold sensitive plants when night time lows are expected to dip below 20 degrees F. Cover vegetable crops when temperatures are predicted to fall below the mid 20s. For this upcoming cold snap, I would wrap plants like sago palm in a blanket and cover vegetables with floating row cover Monday evening and not worry about uncovering them until Wednesday or Thursday morning. Plants will be fine covered for a couple of days through extreme cold weather.
  • If you do not have any floating row cover or frost protection fabric, cover plants with old blankets or other insulating materials. Double layers provide more protection than single layers. Make sure covers extend down to the ground and are securely held down by bricks or staples. Most of the protection provided by covers is from the soil warmth they trap in, which would otherwise radiate out into the night.
  • Lay row cover fabrics, blankets, or double layers of plastic directly over crops or build a low frame or hoops out of PVC or other materials to create a mini greenhouse over crops. Uncover crops as soon as milder temperature return.
  • Smaller plants can be covered with a thick layer of dry leaves or pine straw. For larger shrubs such as figs, you can build a wire cage around individual plants or beds to help hold leaves in place and cover with an old sheet. Cover plants completely so no green is exposed for best protection.
  • Plants growing in containers are more sensitive to cold than plants growing in the ground. Move containers to protected locations such as against the house under the eaves, onto a porch, in a garage, or under dense trees. If containers cannot be moved, wrap the entire container in thick layers of insulating materials such as bubble wrap or old blankets, or build a wire cage around them and fill with straw.
  • Open blossoms and blossom buds showing color are more sensitive to cold than other plant parts. If you have camellias, blueberries or other early blooming shrubs with open blossoms and wish to protect the blossoms, completely cover the bushes with row cover or blankets. Make sure covers extend all the way down to the ground and they are staked down. Blueberries do not open all their blossoms at one time so even if you lose some blooms now, your crop will not be lost.
  • Strawberry plants should be covered even if blossoms are not present.

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