Most plants should revive in springtime
Garden Gnome
By Sandy Hodson| Staff Writer
Friday, January 08, 2010

If you were beginning to wonder whether gnomes hibernate for the winter, the answer is no. Unfortunately.

I'm still here, and this past week I've been fretting over the weather and its effect on the unmulched vegetable bed (goodbye, lettuce) and everything else that was once green.

With this unusually long stretch of cold, I'm worried that even the mulched plants might be in danger. After consulting the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Web site ( and Joanne Peterson, of Bedford Greenhouses, I'm feeling a little better.

I hope you had time to put a few inches of mulch down around your ornamentals, flowers, shrubs and small trees. If you did, most of your plants should be all right.

Mrs. Peterson said tropical-type plants such as elephant ears are looking pretty pitiful but should come back. If you haven't moved the Mandeville inside or at least to the garage by now, however, it is probably a goner. Most of the ferns that live outside may have turned black, but they should pull through in the spring with new growth, Ms. Peterson said.

The herbs that typically live through the winter, such as rosemary, and the winter annuals may look deathly ill now, but with some warmer weather they should perk up. After they do, you can trim back dead ends and deadhead the flowers and then give them some fertilizer, she said.

You might not be able to see cold damage until spring, according to an article by Robert Westerfield, extension horticulturist, and Orville Lindstrom, professor of horticulture, published by the Cooperative Extension Service. The cold can damage every part of a plant, from leaves and buds to roots. Woody plants can suffer bark splitting, a potentially fatal injury because it can block a plant's ability to move nutrients and water.

For future reference, the coldest place on your property is on the north and northwest sides, according to the article. These are not the places to put in plants susceptible to cold damage.

Fertilizing plants in the fall can also set them up for cold injury because fertilizing brings on a new flush of growth, Mr. Westerfield and Dr. Lindstrom wrote. Also, do not prune in late summer or fall because that will also produce new growth that is susceptible to cold damage.

Water can help plants survive a freeze because moist soil holds more heat, according to the article.

The experts say you should not rush out to prune plants after the freeze ends. Wait until spring.

As Mrs. Peterson said, this misery will pass soon. It's only a couple of more months until spring.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or


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From the Friday, January 08, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle


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