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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Frost and Freeze Damage

Posted by John Fulton -

It was quite an interesting twist getting a hard freeze with not much frost, and then some frost on the second day. Why not much frost? Well, there really wasn't much moisture to produce the frost. The second day of cold weather, we didn't have much frost until the humidity came up around 6:30 or later. The end result is damage to many plants, and the actual damage is caused by the plant's cells rupturing from being frozen.

Most damaged was new growth on many perennials and tender crops. Some of the more noticeable problems were on evergreens where the new candle growth was killed. Of course grapes really got hit, and so did some of the trees just leafing out such as walnuts and sycamores. Many of the normally frost tolerant garden plants were actually frozen back to the ground. The only really good thing that could have come from it was some damage to flowering or developing sweet gums, but don't hold your breath on that one.

One thing to definitely check is rhubarb. If you notice brown or black around the leaf edges, it is probably best to pull those stalks and wait for regrowth to harvest. The freeze damage of rhubarb leaves releases a toxin back into the leaf stalks, and they are poisonous. It's best to be safe, so when in doubt – throw it out becomes the golden rule.

What can you do about the damage? Well, the best thing to do is wait and see. Most plants in the perennial and frost tolerant groups will being regrowth in four to eight weeks. If you happened to put out some tender crops, such as tomatoes, well...... you probably got to practice on the first batch.

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