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Winter can be devastating to a garden
The weather outside has been frightfully cold in recent weeks — leading some gardeners to cover their plants so they do not die from the freeze.
Depending upon whom you contact, this winter is either colder than usual or not that cold at all in Glenn County and surrounding areas.
But plants in home gardens can still suffer deadly consequences if the thermometer drops below 32 degrees for an extended period.
Friendly Garden Club members Erna Garton and Jo Wigdahl of Orland say they have taken precautions to save their plants with some success.
"I only covered my bougainvillea," Garton said. "I put a rug on it."
Otherwise, it is hard to protect things very much outdoors, she said. Her orange, mandarin and lemon trees are not that protected.
Garton said she hopes the temperature does not go below the 20's or teens.
She added about 10 years ago she turned the sprinklers on them during a hard cold snap and saved the trees.
Big icicles help protect them, Garton said.
"I have a patio and bring all susceptible plants under the patio," Wigdahl said. "I've lost some but it's been so cold."
If a plant looks like it is dead, Wigdahl also suggests not pulling it out right away. Geraniums, for example, can die back but then come back in the spring.
Ria Poldervaart cares for the plants the garden club sells each year in May at her Capay home.
She covers them with old sheets, blankets and similar things, Podervaart said. Succulents, geraniums and cactus plants are primarily what she covers.
Tim Behr of Garden Guys Nursery in Willows said he will put delicate plants inside or under glass when it freezes.
However, he tries to plant perennials that are cold hardy and native to this area, Behr said.
Using old Christmas lights and smudge pots to warm plants is another technique, he said.
However, Garden Guys owner Gary Coffman said LED lights will not work since they do not generate enough heat.
Coffman also does not recommend covering things with plastic, he said, as if it is left on, it will "fry" the plants.
He suggests using cloth instead or burlap.
When temperatures get into the 20s and teens for more than three hours or for days, that is when most damage occurs, Coffman added.
Glenn County normally does not get that much cold, so it is rare to get major freezes, he said.
Garden Guys does grow a lot of tropical plants like banana trees, bamboo and other flowering plants.
As a result, Coffman and Behr cut these trees back and grow them on a trial basis to see if they can withstand Northern California winters. If they don't, they pull them out.
Sprinklers also are handy when the weather is frigid, Coffman said, and will form icicles to protect the plants.
Still, Coffman said he considers this a "mild winter" since there are only be a few hours when temperatures were in the 20s this season.
Master Gardener Pamela Geisel with the University of California, Cooperative Extension in Glenn County echoed some of Coffman's sentiments.
She said this winter has been pretty mild with the lowest temperatures running around 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
Geisel said lemons can go to 27 degrees on the tree without getting ruined depending on the humidity level and how long the cold lasts.
Most of the time these low temperatures are in the early morning hours and rise later in the day, she said.
Home gardeners should protect the branches and trunks of citrus trees and other vulnerable plants by wrapping them in newspaper or using a film over them.
Don't let plastic touch the foliage, Geisel said, as that will cause damage. It should be loosely fitted.
Running a sprinkler at night or using outdoor lamps to give heat will protect plants as well.
But Geisel said the water needs to stay running with sprinklers, otherwise, the weight of the icicles formed could break the branches.
People should pick their lemons if the temperature goes 24 degrees or lower and store them briefly in newspaper until they can be used up, she added.
Finally, do not prune citrus trees right away after a hard freeze, Geisel said as they may grow back by mid summer. See what dead wood is there then.