Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Frost Protection and Recovery for Tucson

Great information from one of our Tucson gems, Tohono Chul Park in Tucson near Ina and La Cañada. Pictures and information are courtesy of the Tohono Chul Park.

 Article begins here.
"Now is not the time to begin pruning plants damaged during the last frost, as the dead and damaged parts help to protect the parts still alive underneath.  This is good news for most Sonoran Desert native plants, which are fairly cold-hardy and able to withstand temperatures as low as 24°.

Less robust plants need some protection once the mercury dips to below 30°. Cover plants with old sheets or lightweight blankets. Use styrofoam cups to protect the growing tips of columnar or other small cacti, especially the more tropical varieties. Place a string of old-fashioned Christmas tree lights (the kind that use a 7-watt bulb) in a tree or shrub under the cloth cover, being sure that the bulbs are not too close to any part of the plant.

Patience key for frost-damaged plants

We have received numerous calls about what to do with the plants that have been damaged by the recent hard freezes. The first thing we say to everyone is to have patience to figure out just what the damage has been and whether the plants will recover or need to be replaced. The following are some thoughts about what to do:

Wait and see just how severe the damage is. Many of the citrus that lost all their leaves are already producing new growth with virtually no twig damage. Just how bad your plants were hurt depends upon several factors including location, wind damage, and whether your plants were covered. Tucson's night temperatures can vary by 10 or more degrees depending upon your location.

Have patience. Most of the damaged plants will recover in time. Wait until after the last frost (usually between March 10 and 31) to cut back your plants that you wish to keep. The dead/damaged parts help to protect the parts still alive below. Another frost can still come and damage your plants further.

Take stock. It is more accurate to say that the freeze was visually devastating rather than physically devastating. Although the frost-damaged plants may not look nice, try to leave them alone for the time being.

Step back and think. Some of the best fall/winter/spring bloomers are half-hardy or frost-sensitive plants that bloom right up until frost, or all winter in a mild year. Try to limit the number of frost sensitive plants in visually prominent locations.

Consider the opportunities. This is a great time to update or revamp your landscape. Tohono Chul's greenhouse propogates many native, arid-adapted and cold-hardy plants that would enhance your landscape. The Plant Sale, scheduled for March 16 (members) and March 19-20 (public) provides the ideal opportunity for you to replenish your landscaping. Plus seasoned staff will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice"  End of article.

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