Faux spring

first_imgBy Aaron L. LancasterUniversity ofGeorgiaAcross central and north Georgia this fall, trees and shrubs,including cherry, peach, plum, apricot and nectarine trees, areblooming prematurely.The chilly weather in early fall, which warmed up again inOctober, created a false sensation of spring to the plants.”Every so often this weather phenomenon appears, disrupting thenatural cycle of trees and shrubs,” says Paul Thomas, ahorticulture professor with the University of Georgia College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences.The bad news is that the present blooms are the actual springblooms. That means the beautiful displays of blooms next springwill be substantially reduced. Triggered to flower at the end ofsummer growth, the blossoms open now won’t reopen in 2004.But…The good news, Thomas says, is that the buds that remain closedshould harden as normal, remain dormant during the winter andopen next spring. Or, at least, they will if the weather doesn’tthrow any more sudden temperature fluctuations at them.Early blooms can damage plants, making them susceptible todisease during the rainy times typical of late winter. Swollenbuds (on the brink of bloom) will be damaged by sudden frosts.The risk of freezes damaging unopened and unswollen buds, though,is minimal. If weather stays dry and cools off as it normallydoes, the flower buds will dry and prepare for winter as usual.Lend a handTo some degree, gardeners can help plants become acclimated towinter. Always reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you applyafter mid-July. Stop applying it by late summer. Plants shouldenter autumn as healthy as possible, but not growing fast.The drying out of plant tissues, especially with evergreens,is a common form of winter injury. Keep the soil well-wateredwhere evergreens are growing in mid to late autumn, before thesoil freezes.If the soil is dry, sandy or under the overhang of a roof, waterin midwinter, too, when the temperature is above freezing.Mulch adoA ring of mulch 2 to 3 inches deep on top of the roots is thebest protection for landscape plants. Mulch maintains a more eventemperature while retaining moisture in the soil. Bark nuggets,compost, peat moss, pine straw, hay and shredded leaves work wellas organic mulches.Unhardened (“green”) trees have very little protection fromsudden freezes. Professional peach growers use a detailed regimenof applying water on fruit and foliage, but these practicesaren’t recommended for homeowners.”We’ll have to see what Mother Nature sends our way this winterto determine next year’s blooms,” Thomas said.(Aaron Lancaster is a Bibb County Extension agent with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)last_img

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