Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Frost Burn Damage - Ugly but Healthy!

Good Day Folks,

In the desert we have two types of direct weather related damage — frost damage (really a kind of ‘burn') and sun burn. Both do identical injury to the plants and both should be dealt with in similar fashion.

First — Don't touch the damage until the danger is over! If you are a gardener more interested in beauty than longevity of the plant, you should probably be gardening only with ornamentals, although you will miss the shear pleasure of harvesting your own bounty from your own gardens, while enjoying their beauty most of the year.

Unless we have a severe weather experience, most frost ‘burn' or sun burn are on the top of the plant only, and the damaged, dried out portions provide protection to the lower healthy foliage and fruit. If you cut the damage off before the danger is over it is like exposing new baby skin to full sun or cold - the damage will be greater and you could lose the plant.

Second — watch for new growth below the damaged area, sometimes beginning at the soil level, but often beginning at branching areas. This is a good indication that you can start the pruning process and that the frost danger is over.

Third — once the danger is over, you can begin pruning off the dead branches a "little" at a time — DO NOT cut it all off at once — give the protected growth time to acclimate to the sun and air by working around the plant pruning off about a fourth or fifth of the plant then waiting a day or two and do the next section — it should take you about a week to do all the pruning.

Some plants grown here in the desert such as basil or tomato, which you have successfully wintered over with cloth protection, will take a bit longer to get started — their growth is triggered by the warming soil, not just the lack of frost, so watch FIRST for that new growth at the base or nodes of the plant, before beginning to prune.

As we move into the warmer temps of spring, keep that water meter handy for checking soil moisture content.

Welcome to spring in the desert!

Accuweather is a great site for getting detailed weather forecast info by zipcode. — you can sign up to receive a 5-day brief forecast and go to the site for detailed long range (15 day) information.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S. With the rains we have had this year, we should have a spectacular wild flower display in the desert. To find out where wild flowers are showing up now and later on click here for the desertusa site.

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