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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

Plants surviving winter chill

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SIKESTON -- If plants were beginning to think it was springtime, then Mother Nature quickly pulled them back into reality with a recent cold snap.

Temperatures dropped from 70 degrees last Thursday to single-digit lows over the weekend. The weather is warming up a bit this week with highs in the 40s and 50s but are expected to drop by week's end, according to the National Weather Service.

But despite the extreme shift in temperatures, most ornamentals and perennials seem to be faring well.

"I've looked and have been watching (my plants) today to see if anything was wrong, and so far, all the buds are still tight," said David Bizzell, owner of Bizzell Lawn Care and Nursery in Sikeston. "I've not seen any adverse problems with the buds."

One thing to watch for is winter crack, which are splits in bark or wood of a tree that are the result of rapid drops in temperature

"It will split the trunk and start an infection in limbs and cause them to weep. But so far we haven't seen that," Bizzell said.

Some flowers and perennials were moving along like it wasn't even winter so it was about time for a cold snap, Bizzell pointed out.

"We needed a cold snap to slow things down," Bizzell said.

Tim Baker, horticulture specialist for the University of Missouri Extension's Southeast Region and Dunklin County, also noted there have been some pretty swollen buds in the area, but nothing blooming out yet.

"Our daffodils were up. If it had stayed warm, they would have been blooming in week or so," Baker said.

Baker said it's probably a little early to tell how the cold snap affected some plants, specifically fruit trees.

"Some of the peach growers are probably out now, taking a look at peach buds to see if the cold snap killed the buds or not," said Baker, who as of Monday morning hadn't heard of any reports of damage.

George Cates of Cates Orchard in Dudley, said he will wait four or five days and then check the peaches.

"The peach forms in the last part of June or the first of July, and the peach inside is the blooming bud," Cate explained.

And when a cold snap occurs, a peach grower will randomly cut buds to see if they're alive or not, Cate explained.

The earlier blooming fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums are the ones that would have been affected by the cold weather, Baker said.

"Apples and grapes might not be as far along and not as far lost as the peaches," Baker said.

Meanwhile, gardeners should just let nature take its course, Bizzell said. "The main thing is keep the moisture levels good. If we go dry for a couple of weeks, be sure and water."

This ensures plants get adequate moisture during cold snaps, which are sure to occur between now and April.

It does help to cover plants but it isn't always possible, both Baker and Bizzell said. So in the meantime, gardeners should just keep up with their regular routines.

"Right now we're fertilizing trees and in the next few weeks, we'll be putting out crabgrass preventers," Bizzell said. "And we'll just wait for spring."