Posted by: Mary Small, Urban IPM Agent, Jefferson County Extension
Recently, we've had a few interesting and timely questions from folks who are in the final stages of putting the landscape to bed.
One caller had read in two different articles that it was important to water plants in the fall before hard freezes. Fortunately for her plants, she was out purchasing a new nozzle for her hose when I returned her call. Why fortunate? It bought them some time and perhaps a chance at continued life. You see, she had been planning to water as many plants as she could before very cold temperatures arrived in the next 24 hours. Luckily she checked her messages before heading outside with her purchase and intentions.
The woman’s interpretation of “watering before hard freezes” was to do just that, apply water to her plants just before a hard freeze arrives. I explained that the author meant that water should be applied in the weeks before the ground freezes, not immediately before. She admitted that it seemed counter-intuitive to apply water which would then freeze in the ground, resulting in frost-heaved plants. I guess that’s a lesson for all of us to write clearly.
The next person wanted to know if it was too late to prune her roses and control disease. No, I gently responded, it was a bit early. Perhaps longer canes could be removed to prevent them from whipping around in winter winds and breaking. And she could certainly rake up fallen leaves to reduce inoculum for next year. She wasn’t sure her plants actually had any diseases; she had just read that fall was a good time to take preventive action. In the arid West pruning roses in the fall can exacerbate winter cane injury and desiccation.