- Author: Janet Snyder
My poor garden is so confused! It is November, correct? I was outside, in shorts and sandals, watering my thirsty plants in the heat this week. So many of the trees have not turned color and started to drop leaves yet. I'm usually doing some pretty heavy raking of leaves by now. I'm wondering if and when fall will arrive here in California.
In spite of the unusual weather, I did do some random fall chores outside. I went ahead and took out the tomato plants, picked the pumpkins and discarded the vines in anticipation of the possible upcoming frost next weekend. The morning glories have continued to bloom every day, although not as profusely. Even so, I pulled down the vines and tossed them in the compost bin. Various perennials were in need of deadheading, so I took care of that. What leaves are falling were raked up, as I don't want to encourage the various fungus and bugs that love their habitat to take over (I have enough trouble keeping rust and black spot at bay as it is on my roses!). I mowed the grass, hoping that if we do have a frost, it'll be the last time I have to mow until springtime.
Turning to my patio, the outdoor furniture is now all under cover from the rains. The summer annuals in the pots were still looking pretty, but I'm ready for winter annuals. So…I pulled out the salvia, petunias, and begonias, cleaned the pots, added fresh soil, and put in some beautiful pansies and cyclamen. With the freshly picked pumpkins next to the pots, it looks much more like fall on the patio.
I hope fall arrives soon!
- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Like a siren’s song, the tomatoes are calling to me. Blame it on the moist soil, the longer days, and the need to plant something new and productive. And it’s gonna happen soon, the planting of the tomatoes. The threat of frost still hovers over Zone 9, but I know I will throw caution to the wind and plant before April 15.
But, this year, I will not plant our tomatoes in the raised beds tucked into the southwest corner of our lot. This year, I will slip those beautiful little seedlings into a stone-lined bed right smack in the middle of our back yard. Yep, right next to the tiny lawn and the salvia (S. microphylla 'Hot Lips') and the creeping myoporum (M. parvifolium 'Putah Creek').
Call me a rebel. I’m going to plant edibles amongst the bloomers. Heck, I might sneak in some bell peppers amongst the penstemon, some basil next to the lavender. I could get used to growing food in the beds that normally grow just pretty flowers. It seems like a much more efficient use of rich, sun-drenched soil, and the irrigation is already there.
Who knows? Today I take over a smallish planting bed. Tomorrow it may be the area where our lawn now grows. I’ll keep you posted on the “revolution” taking place in my back yard.
- Author: Sharon Leos
Is it a frost or a freeze? Honestly, it really does not matter. It is cold! But just in case you are curious, the difference is technical and meteorological.
A freeze (also called an advective freeze) occurs when a mass of cold air brings freezing temperatures into the area. For us, that normally means arctic air coming down from the Gulf of Alaska. It is usually cloudy and windy during a freeze.
A frost (also called a radiation frost) occurs under clear skies with wind less than five miles per hour which allow a temperature inversion to form near the ground where the temperature drops to freezing. Normally the temperature increases with altitude as you leave the ground. An inversion occurs when the temperature above the ground begins to cool at increasing height. If the air is very dry during a frost, no ice forms and it is called a black frost. A white frost forms when the air is holding water that condenses and freezes on surfaces forming ice.
Plants do not care why it is cold and the damage freezing temperatures cause depends on the species and age of the of plant and the amount of time it is exposed to the cold temperature. Severely frozen citrus may drop off the tree while less affected fruit may look normal but be dried out inside. Tender growth on unprotected flowering plants may turn black once thawed and bamboo (Bambusa spp.) leaves may desiccate and fall off. Other plants such as mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) may be completely undamaged.
If a plant is damaged, the best advice is to wait until spring before pruning out the dead material. Pruning now may lead to further damage from later frosts since damaged branches and leaves may provide some protection. Be patient and let new growth on the plant show you where to prune so you do not cut back too much. The last frost in our area is normally around the third week in March, but Mother Nature can be unpredictable!
For more information on protecting your plants from freezing weather, visit the UC Integrated Pest Management website http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/ENVIRON/frostdamage.html. A search for “frost” on the UC IPM website will also help you find examples of frost damage to many types of plants including fruits and vegetables.
- Author: Karen Norton
How to protect your succulents from frost
Now that the weather is getting colder and now that I have added succulents to my garden containers, it is important to know how to protect them from frost. Usually perennials respond to winter cold by dying to the ground. In spring, their roots send out new growth. But many succulents from mild climates don't have this adaptation, and need special care when grown where temperatures drop below 32 degrees F.
Here are some tips from succulent photojournalist and author, Debra Lee Baldwin.
-- Don't peel away dry leaves attached to a succulent's trunk or stem. They protect it from temperature extremes (cold and hot).
-- Keep succulents on the dry side. Cells that are turgid are more likely to burst when the liquid within them freezes.
-- Move potted succulents beneath a deck, tree or eaves. (I try to tuck them next to the house in corners that are covered)
-- Place pots against walls, hardscape, boulders and/or shrubs that absorb and slowly release the day's heat. South- and west-facing exposures are best.
-- Drape succulents with frost cloth (sold at nurseries) or old bed sheets. Avoid plastic, which traps moisture, doesn't let plants breathe, and intensifies sunlight.
Should your succulents become frost-burned ~
-- Remove collapsed leaves only if it's likely they'll stay moist and decay. But if they'll protect the plant from future frost, leave on and prune in spring.
-- Preserve the geometry of slender-leaved succulents (such as agaves and aloes) by trimming tip-burned leaves to a point, rather than cutting straight across.
-- Chalk it up to experience. Now you know that particular plant is vulnerable and needs a protected location. (This is my gardening style that I am trying to improve by joining the Solano Master Gardener program).
- Author: Jennifer Baumbach
Last night I was complaining to the husband about how cold it was in the house. I cranked up the heater, but it just didn't seem to do the trick. I hauled out a down blanket and put it on the bed. It didn't dawn on me until I opened the garage door this morning that Jack Frost had visited Dixon. The evidence was on all the roofs in my court-a light dusting of frost. I know this was a pretty isolated event, as I had queried a few Master Gardener friends from Fairfield. They said they didn't have any frost this morning.
Just a note to all you blog readers, protect your valuable plants or get them indoors. Watching the weather on the evening news might help. I would hate to see you lose that favorite plant due to a sneaky frost.