frozen strawberries

Frozen strawberry plants that were not covered during cold temperatures.

 

The recent cool nights are a reminder that it’s time to think about the first freeze. 

A little forethought now will save a mad dash in the cold to cover plants and can save the sorrow of frozen plants. 

The date of the average first freeze in our area is Nov. 22. No freezing weather is predicted in the next 10 days. 

The first question most have is what to do about green tomatoes. When the temperatures head toward the 40s, pick the tomatoes left on the vine. 

They likely will ripen just fine in a sunny window, but it needs to be warm. 

Placing them in a single layer in a box with a lid and storing them in a warm place works as well. 

For other plants, do a little research. Plants may tolerate more cold than you think. Gardeners often panic when the forecast shows temps in the mid-to low 40s. Many garden plants will do just fine. Others should be brought inside. Again, do your research. 

Most herbs will survive the winter with no cover.

Basil, however, will perish with temperatures near 40. Freeze or dry some leaves for winter cooking and just replant next spring. If you want fresh basil throughout the winter, try keeping a small plant on a sunny windowsill. 

Citrus trees also cause a lot of angst. Most citrus will withstand temperatures down to 28 dgrees so there is no need to rush to bring them in. 

There are a lot of cartoons this time of year about gardeners filling their homes with plants. Some put them in a rarely used bathtub, on kitchen counters or cluster plant stands around windows. Others fill the garage. 

No matter where you put them, remember that they will need light and water throughout the winter. Some spend hours hauling plants outside during the day and then bringing them in at night. Plant lights might be worth the investment in those cases. 

Outdoors, you can cover plants to protect them from a frost or a light freeze. Old sheets and blankets work well, but remember to uncover them the next day so they get the warm sunshine. 

If you are likely to cover several plants because you can’t bring them indoors, garden centers sell frost cloth specially made to protect them. 

To help hardier outdoor plants to withstand a freeze, mulch around the base. That helps keep the roots warm. 

Watering plants before a freeze might not seem the best idea, but it is. The water helps make sure the plant is not stressed and it ready to withstand the weather. 

The point is to plan now so you won’t be out in the dark on a cold night frantically carrying plants in or throwing covers over them.

Gardening help is available from Kaufman County Master Gardeners at kcmga.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/kcmga

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