Weather in the South is always changing. This week is a reminder that there are no set dates for the last frost or freeze in the South.
Our warm winter fooled many plants into starting growth, flowering and fruiting early this year, only to be damaged by this week’s sudden hard freezes. Many succulent tips might have been burned and damaged on “fooled” plants.
This rapid temperature drop after an early season warm-up can also cause bark splitting, or stem cracks on shrubs and trees, which might be visible now, show up after a few weeks, or take until later in the spring or early summer to show up.
If some of your plants were damaged, take time before you prune or you decide to remove or replace any severely damaged plants. It will take time before the extent of leaf or tip damage will show up on lightly damaged plants and longer for severe damage to show up.
Obviously dead tips, flowers and fruit can be removed or lightly pruned as you recognize them. Prune back to green tissue and to live branches or green, unopened buds if possible. This will improve the look of damaged plants and allow new growth to fill into damaged areas. Inspect damaged plants again in late spring and clean any remaining dead tissue.
There is not much you can do at this stage for flowers or small fruits that suffered from the freeze, but wait a few weeks and make sure there are no further freezes before you do light pruning. By then you can recognize where the live tissue remains and prune back to green tissue.
Don’t be too quick to give up on cold-damaged plants. Some of our sensitive plants, such as figs, gardenias and others, might sprout from the roots after the tops are killed by cold. It might take several months before the roots respond and new growth emerges.
Even if the entire top is frozen, they might recover by sprouting from the base or roots. It might be May or even June before new growth emerges. Once it is obvious what tissue is dead, dead stems and branches can be cut back to green tissue and allow new growth to take over. Follow-up pruning might be necessary to shape plants and remove any further damaged tissue.
Additionally, you can check HGIC Bulletin 2350, Cold Damage for more information on avoiding cold damage in the future on Clemson University’s Home and Garden website at clemson.edu/extension/hgic/.
4-H chicken project
If your child loves chickens, sign them up for the Greenwood-Saluda 4-H Pullet Project, which is designed for youth who were ages 5-19 as of Jan. 1. Youth get a choice of a large flock (30 chicks) or a small flock (15 chicks).
Cost is $10 for non-4-H members and free to those who sign up with 4-H. Chicks will be available in early April. Youth will show their chickens at the Saluda Livestock show Sept. 14.
For information or to sign up, contact 4-H agent Lucy Charping at 864-223-3264, 864-993-5317 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register youth at the Greenwood County or Saluda County Clemson Extension office.
James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.