12 February 2010

Pansies Freeze Burned by Ice?

Don't let your flowers look like this
(c)2009 Proudland Landscape, LLC

Protect your pansies and other winter seasonal flowers from freeze burn. January and February Atlanta weather can be extremely deceiving when it comes to winter temperatures. Seasonal flowers can become the victims of balmy winter days, followed by bouts of ice and freezing temperatures. Atlanta and North Georgia gardeners must be proactive to prevent damage.

There are five action items to prevent winter damage to your pansies and other seasonal winter flowers: Plant in the ideal window, prepare soils, mulch properly, water adequately, protect from ice. Planting and soil preparation may be beyond your control at this point, but the other items can be still acted on.

Planting time. Planting time for Summer and Winter seasonal color is very important. For winter flowers, we want temperatures to be cool enough that the flowers won't suffer heat stress, but still have enough time for them to establish before winter sets in. This time would be the middle of October in Atlanta, and surrounding areas.

Soil preparation. We want well tilled soils, with plenty of organic matter. Hard, clay, rocky soils will just not cut it. Roots need to grow easily and quickly, water needs to be absorbed and then released to the roots, and there needs to be mico air pockets for insulation--In short: fluffy, black soil.

Mulch. A heavy layer of mulch should be applied to the newly planted and watered flowers. This layer should be maintained, and replenished as needed throughout the winter. When the squirrels and neighborhood dogs dig in your fluffy beds, go behind them and repair your mulch layer. This will provide the moisture retention, and insulation your flowers need.

Water adequately. This is a double-edged sword. Cold and low humidity levels will dry plants out, so they need water. However, if your watering is ill-timed, this will leave a coat of ice on the leaves and flowers, which can burn your flowers to the ground. The solution is to be dilligent about watering before the first hard freezes set in. After that, turn off your automatic sprinklers, and water by hand in between rainfall.

Protect from ice. Do what you can to keep ice from forming on the leaves and flowers. You only can control so much, but absolutely turn automatic sprinklers off before the first freezing mornings. Nothing will burn down your flowers quickly than a nice, thick coat of ice sprayed on your flowers when the sprinklers go off at 6am in 30 degree temperatures.

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