Beautiful gardens by William Johnson
I THINK it’s about time I schedule another appointment with my therapist. I have experienced numerous episodes of denial in the past few days and I am in need of psychological counseling.
While I was writing last week’s column, it was a balmy 77 degrees. Fast forward to the day I am writing this column and it’s another balmy 75°.
Somewhere between the preparations of last week’s Beautiful Gardens column and this week’s, the thermometer took a deep dive to the south. Temperatures were down to 27° on Friday night and 31° on Saturday night.
I would argue that the human body and mind are not conditioned to withstand such bipolar extremes – especially when the human body and soul love gardening. So I looked up descriptions for the word “denial”.
The most apropos description – with doses of personal commentary – for my type of denial reads: “Denial consists of the refusal to accept a past or present reality [it cannot be freezing here] and is most commonly employed to protect a person from the repeated memories of the negative actions [it will require work to move heavyweight plants into the garage]. Denial is a self-defense mechanism employed by aspects of the subconscious mind to protect emotional and psychological wellbeing [it was cold outside so physical wellbeing should be added as well].”
Despite forecasts portending such low temperatures, I was not accepting. That reflected my self-defense for I knew it would mean moving cold-sensitive container plants from my landscape into the garage. Last winter’s very mild, non-freezing weather conditions had spoiled me as well as a lot of other gardeners.
I first moved the plumeria into the garage as they are the most cold-sensitive of my plants. The outside temperature then continued to drop. Next to be taken in was a crown of thorns plant that I have grown from a cutting and was still flowering.
It was around 9:00pm on Friday and temperatures were continuing to drop. Next in was a pony tail plant that I have had for many years. Temperatures were still dropping, so next was my aloe vera plant – I had to protect that one as it’s my medical plant of choice for treating the occasional cut incurred during gardening chores.
At that point, I declared that would mark the end to moving plants inside.
My banana plants have grown into small trees so there would be no moving them. They are very likely to sprout new growth when spring weather returns in a few weeks.
My loquat tree is about 25 feet tall and has a heavy crop load. Well-established loquat trees can handle temperatures as low as 12° but their flowers, buds and fruit can be killed when temperatures drop to 26°. As much as I like loquat fruit for fresh consumption, there would be no moving and no protecting the specimen tree.
My meiwa kumquat citrus tree produced a bumper crop this winter and most of the fruit remains on the plant. Among the edible types of sweet citrus, the satsuma and kumquats have the greatest degree of cold hardiness. Properly hardened bearing trees will withstand temperatures as low as 20° degrees without appreciable wood damage.
The lesson to learn here is to utilize cold-hardy plants to provide the foundation of your landscape. Growing cold-sensitive plants is still worth the effort to add more color to the landscape but you must be willing to accept the occasional risk of freezing weather.
I suspect that is what my therapist will tell me, so I might as well cancel my appointment with her and move on to relocating my container plants back outdoors.
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.
Grow great fruit and vegetables at home
IT’S ALMOST mid-January and I’ve just finished discussing last week’s surprise cold snap. Yet daytime temperatures have been quite pleasant and such days tend to fuel gardening fever. Experienced gardeners know that, in just a few weeks, the spring gardening season will be under way so now is the time to make preparations for a successful home vegetable season.
Experienced gardeners try to put plants
in the ground as quickly as possible after the last expected frost. They also know that, as summer approaches, some heat-sensitive plants such as tomatoes and beans will stop blooming or setting blossoms at temperatures above 90°.
An important key to successful spring gardening is achieving maximum production before the summer heat sets in.
So you’re aware of the health benefits
of eating fresh vegetables and you have the space for a small garden but just don’t know where to start? Look no further.
Plan now to attend two upcoming programs on fruit-and-vegetable production on Saturday, January 14. The first, titled Growing Great Tomatoes In The Home Garden, will be conducted from 9:00-11:30am and the second, Successful Spring Vegetable Gardening, from 1:00-3:30pm.
Both programs will be conducted
at Galveston County AgriLife Extension Service’s Carbide Park office at 4102 Main Street in La Marque.
There’s no fee but pre-registration is required, either by phone at 281-309-5065
or by e-mail at GalvCountyMGs@gmail.com.
Master gardener Ira Gervais, above, locally known for his expertise on growing tomatoes, will demonstrate how best to grow the fruit at home on Saturday, January 14. – William Johnson