Gardening 101: Aftermath Of Winter Storms

From Patricia in Grand Prairie:

“I have many plants and it looks very sad//prune or wait?

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From Kathy, a recent transplant from Michigan:

“We know very little about what plants, trees and shrubs have survived the bad weather we have had”

That is but a sampling of the questions coming into Gardening 101 over the last two weeks. The general advice is to wait and see, the plant is going show you if it survived or, more likely, what parts.

For example, it appears I’ve lost about a third of my prized fig tree. It’ll go from about 12 feet tall to about 8 feet tall when I’m done trimming it back. You never want to keep dead plant material attached, remove it as soon as you can tell what is budding out and what is not. Before you cut check just under the bark to see if there is any green in the tissue. If so, give it a little longer, the plant still might recover. This is how my backyard looked on Feb. 15th. I’m not that far from the DFW Airport where the official measurement was 4.0” of snow:

The liquid equivalent tells the story, only .14” if you melted that 4” of snow. That is high basin powder snow in Colorado, an incredible liquid-to-snow ratio of 30:1 (the average is 10:1). As rare as snow is in North Texas this type of snow is almost unheard of. Funny thing about that fluffy snow, it has the highest insulation value of just about ANY kind of snow. Air temperature got down to -2 the next morning, the coldest temperature recorded at DFW in 72 years. But the ground under the snow? Probably more like 20 degrees. Below is a picture of my one-year old Olive tree. I still don’t know if it is going to survive but you can see where the 4” of snow protected the lower leaves:

Just a few days before the cold air arrived I cut my spinach down to ground level. Then it snowed over the plants. These vegetables plants should be dead, it got down to -2 degrees in my yard. Two weeks later they look like this:

Not just recovered but thriving, like nothing had happened. Again, the snow insulated them since all the plants where cut down to ground level.

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There is a second fall going on right now. Many of the trees and plants that keep their leaves during the winter are losing them.

My neighbor’s live oak is a perfect example:

Live oaks are actually native to areas in South Texas. Their leaves should start to grow back over the next month. My cross vines (I grow tangerine beauty) don’t appear they’ll offer up their typical great spring show (picture on right is from late March two years ago).

I think some parts of this plant will survive but, like my fig tree, I likely lost years of growth:

Like everyone, I am waiting to see the butcher’s bill. I noticed today that my hardy kiwi plants are budding, even at the end of their vines which is a huge surprise. Also my fall-planted climbing rose already has new leaves. I’ve also noticed that my Indian Hawthorne is doing nothing; just sitting there with severe freeze burn. I am wondering if it is going to survive at all. It appears my rosemary will have to take a huge cut back but I suspect I’ll grow back. I have cut them back severely before.

This historical cold snap will teach us what plants are better suited for the extreme temperature swings and droughts that North Texas inflicts on all things that grow and live in this area. Over the next couple of weeks much will be revealed.

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Please send me pictures of what you are finding out and I’ll share them with the Gardening 101 community. My garden is adrift in shades of brown and tan, I’m full of hope. This is the spring of hope.

CBS Dallas / Fort Worth