- [Announcer] Tennessee Environmental Council, helping people care for the environment and offering instructions and seed kits for pollinator gardens that bloom into year-round habitats. More information at tectn.org. - [Narrator] On this "Volunteer Gardener," Troy Martin shares his findings and lends insight into the plant damage that occurred during a rapid and dramatic drop in temperature. Trees, shrubs, and perennials, what's going to make it, and what's likely going to have to go? Then we check in on the seed starting operation in full swing at Green Door Gourmet in Nashville. We learn the keys to success. This and more, so stay tuned. Oh, what a difference one day made. - Once in a while, Mother Nature feels the need to flex her muscles and remind us who's in charge. That's exactly what happened just a few days before Christmas, 2022, here in Tennessee and across the eastern half of the United States. We dropped from the low to mid 50s to below zero in just a period of eight to 12 hours depending on your location. And when that happens, a flash freeze, all kinds of damage happens to our plants. So let's take a look at a variety of plants, and we'll talk about what to do now, what to do later to help your gardens thrive, and hopefully get some of these plants to come back from the brink. The first category we want to talk about are broadleafed evergreens. These come in both perennial forms like this hellebore, and then a very common landscape shrub, Otto Luyken laurel, schip laurel, the whole laurel family. This would also include magnolias, hollies, nandinas, and some other perennials also. But one of the things I want to talk about is why this damage happened the way it did. So we experienced a more than 50 degree temperature drop from low to mid 50s to below zero in eight to 12 hour period of time. When that happens, and we're gonna get kind of scientific here for a minute, but when that happens, the water that's in the leaves, especially of these broadleaf evergreens, actually freezes. When water freezes, we know that it does two things. It crystallizes, and it expands. So, inside of the plant's cells, that water is freezing. There's a cell wall around that. And as that water freezes and expands and even becomes little shards of crystals, it pushes through that cell wall damaging it. And then when a thaw comes, the cells basically bleed out, not blood, but water, and die. And so that's what we're seeing is cell death to the extent where we're actually seeing tissue death. There was enough cell damage that the tissue is now dying, and the tissue is the leaves. What we hope is that these leaves will turn brown, shed, but that the stems themselves are not damaged. And on these laurels, the stems actually look pretty good and green, and the buds are still pretty plump and green. So, what we would hope in this situation is that this old foliage will fall off, and come April when things begin to leaf out again, these will leaf back out and they will be okay. One of the hardest hit plants that I've seen in any landscape, including my own, are the aucubas. These are plants that grow in deep shade and really a generally reliable broadleafed evergreen. Some of you may be familiar with the really most common variety that has little yellow speckles all over the leaves, but there are many, many varieties of aucuba, and they did not take this flash freeze very well at all. You can see from this plant that the foliage has turned almost completely black. And even worse, if you look at the growing points, the buds themselves have turned black, and you can just peel that bud right out of there and it's mush on the inside. So there's nothing living. And in fact, you have to go way down inside the plant. The stems are black halfway down. Most of these are going to have to be cut back probably to less than 12 or 18 inches. Even shrubs that are five or six feet tall may have to be cut back in half. But again, we don't want to get anxious about that. We wanna wait and see. Let the shrubs tell us later this spring how far we need to cut them back. When you begin to see bud swelling and new green growth coming out, that will inform you how far back you need to cut things. So one of the most important points that I want to drive home right now about this damage is that, number one, we haven't seen all of the damage yet. So if you prune now, you may have to go back and prune again later, but you also don't want to prune off or cut back more than is necessary. We wanna leave as much good healthy material as possible, and I just don't think we're going to be informed about that until at least the end of March and probably into April, May, and maybe even June on some things. One of the questions that has been asked most often on a Facebook post I made a few days ago is, what do I do about my Lenten roses or hellebores? So I thought we would take a look at some hellebores here also that obviously last year's foliage has frozen and turned brown. The good news is the buds were all well protected by this growth from last year. And you can see that even just in the two weeks since the freeze, the new spring growth has begun to emerge just at the right time. And we even have flower buds on these Lenten roses that will be up, you know, eight or 10 inches high in another three or four weeks, and a month from today is early February, and these will be just arriving for spring, late winter and early spring, like they always do. Generally, we cut the old foliage off of our Lenten roses anyway. I would go ahead and do that. Just be careful not to cut that new growth. And growing in here with this Lenten rose is another evergreen perennial called rohdea. A lot of hosta growers grow this. Generally it is evergreen, but it has taken a hit in the freeze. And I would go ahead on any of your perennials that are looking brown that have turned brown, but they're perennials that will reemerge from ground level, I think it's okay to go ahead and cut those back now and just clear the way for the new foliage to emerge in the spring and be fresh and beautiful. So it's not all doom and gloom. Our perennials obviously will survive and probably even thrive this growing season. The woody plants are the ones we're a little more worried about right now, but any of your perennials that are looking a little worse for wear, I think going ahead and cleaning up and trimming and doing whatever you need to do to make them look better, and, again, to just clear the way for that new growth to emerge later in the spring is probably a good thing. As we're talking about evergreen trees and shrubs, we also ought to take a look at some of our needle evergreens. 95% of them probably are going to be okay. Our junipers, most of the pines, really, really cold hearty, and while that severe temperature drop was hard on everything, those plants are a little more resilient. But one group of plants that I have also seen some questions about are the plants like deodar cedars and blue atlas cedars, the true cedars, which can be a little bit marginal. They're zone seven plants, and we are zone seven here in the Nashville area, but in a situation like we found ourselves in with this flash freeze, they can be just a little bit marginal, and I think we're probably, in the deodar cedars and the blue atlas cedars, going to see some needle drop. You can almost... If I shake this, they'll fall off a little bit into my hands. This particular deodar cedar, it's in a little more protected area. We have tree canopy overhead. We've got the house just behind us. The driveway comes up to us. All of that helps to protect plants. If this was a plant that was more out in the wide open, we might actually see even more browning and more needle drop. Again, I know I've said this several times now, but time really is going to be what tells us ultimately what's going to happen. What I will say is if you see old needle drop on your needle type evergreens where the needles are dropping further back into the plant, that's normal. What we hope we don't see is needle drop way out here toward the tips where the new growth is going to come from. That would indicate that these stems maybe have been frozen and died and can no longer support these needles out here to the tips. So if you see browning and needle drop further back, that is okay, but what we're really watching are these branch tips out here toward the ends, the side branches. We want those, even if they're a little discolored, to retain their needles. If we start seeing needle drop way out here on the ends, then we know we may have a problem on our hands. I don't want to just deliver bad news. So let's take a look at a group of plants that I really was kind of concerned about, but that I think have come through the freeze better than I expected them to. That would be the Japanese maples. This beautiful specimen here is called bihou, a golden barked Japanese maple. And what my concern was about Japanese maples and other thin barked tree species and shrub species, some of our azaleas, even young newly planted red buds and dogwoods, was that their bark is so thin that when we have a flash freeze like we had just before Christmas, sometimes the bark itself will split wide open and expose the interior part of the woody part of the tree. And when that happens, it can do significant damage to the limbs of the trees, the stems of these more ornamental trees, and sometimes even at the base, the bark around the base of the trunk. The good news is so far in most places, I'm not seeing that kind of damage. So we may have a little top pruning to do in the spring. We may have a few dead limbs that need to be pruned out, but I think overall, our Japanese maples, maybe young dogwoods, young red buds, newly planted trees, inspect your trees, young trees, or ornamental trees like this and look for splits in the bark. But if you don't see any, I think for the most part, these plants are going to be okay. They might be a little later leafing out. Again, we might have a little cleaning up to do in the spring, but I think our Japanese maples and most of our ornamental trees and shrubs other than especially the deciduous types that lose their leaves are going to be just fine. Love them or hate them, a lot of us have mahonias in our yard, these prickly evergreens. And like a lot of our broadleaf evergreens, the mahonias also took a hit in this flash freeze. Most of their foliage has turned brown, even though they appear to be a little bit green on the underside of the leaf. I think what we're going to experience with these is that they will completely defoliate, and in the spring, we will get new growth out of the ends of the stems and perhaps even further down the stems on some of these. Let's talk about hydrangeas because we have several different kinds in different categories, and, again, questions about what to do. How do I cut them back? Should I cut them back? And the answer for most of your hydrangeas right now is don't cut them. Probably almost all of your hydrangeas are going to be fine. Oakleaf hydrangeas should come through this with no trouble at all. Your paniculata hydrangeas, things like tardiva and bobo and limelight, little lime, those types of hydrangeas, those flower on their new wood. So even if you do see some dieback, you can do some early spring pruning in March and April, and you'll still get flowers. The one group of hydrangeas that I'm a little concerned about would be the macrophyllas, the purple and blue and pink types with the big mop heads. They tend to be a little marginal at least for bud hardiness in our area anyway. And I think from what I have seen so far when you do the scratch test on the bark, we're looking at those plants being dead almost to the ground. They will come back from their roots, but I think our big old fashioned, what we sometimes call French hydrangeas, again, the big blue and pink mop heads, I think we're looking at probably doing some really hard pruning on those a little later in the spring and almost a rejuvenation type of pruning. And I mentioned the scratch test. I wanna show you what I mean by that just really quickly. If you take your thumbnail and just do a little scratch on the bark of a shrub, you'll see when I scratch that that that is bright green underneath, and sometimes you'll even see a little moisture. That is good and alive all the way out here to the ends of these stems. So we have no worries about whether or not this plant is alive. It is. It's in good health. If you go into some of your hollies, if you go into some of your other hydrangeas and you do that scratch test and you see that it's brown underneath and there's no life, then unfortunately at least that portion of that stem is probably dead. And again, it's just going to be a waiting game and a matter of time to see how much dieback we have in some of these shrubs. Well, as we go through the coming weeks of January and February, a lot more is going to be revealed to us about how much damage was actually done by this pre-Christmas flash freeze that we experienced here in Tennessee and across the southeastern United States and really the eastern half of the country. I think the most important information for me to impart to you right now is to be patient. Wait, don't get anxious. We are going to see some losses. It is inevitable, but we don't know right now what are going to be total losses and what are going to be partial losses and what are going to be successes, things that will have come through this with flying colors. Again, with your perennials, I think it's okay to go ahead and cut perennials back, clean things up, get ready for spring, be ready for the pretty stuff to happen because it is going to happen. With your young trees, maybe newly planted things, thin bark species like we talked about, wait on those. With your shrubs like hydrangeas and a lot of your broadleafed evergreens that are going to drop, inevitably drop their leaves, just be patient. Give them March, April, and May to show you that they want to live. I would say that if something has not leafed out by the end of May, it's probably not going to, and at that time, it's time to cut our losses. And you know what, a plant loss is always a gardening opportunity. There's some hole there that's waiting to be filled. The nurseries are going to be stocked, and they'll be waiting for you to come in and plant something new. - [Phillipe] It is 25 degrees outside, but it is the most exciting time for a lot of gardeners because we are doing some seeds here. I'm at Green Door Gourmet out in West Nashville. Why don't you tell me a little bit about kind of your process? - We fill the 72 cell flat with potting mix, and then put some holes in there. And we're planting leek seeds, King Richard leeks. - Leek seeds, okay. And these take a really long time, right, leeks? - They do, yeah. Yeah, we're doing onions and leeks this week because they take so long to germinate, and we want to get a good headstart on those. Pretty soon, we're gonna be starting lettuces broccolis, kale, all sorts of other vegetables. - [Phillipe] Yeah, a lot of the early kind of spring like winter stuff. - Definitely. - Yeah. So when do y'all start tomatoes and pepper plants? - [Kyle] Around mid-March. It's a little bit too cold to start them right now. - And I guess you do probably several successions of those too since they grow so fast. - We do, yeah. We do succession planting of a lot of different things. So, we'll do succession tomato plantings. We'll also do successions with some of our leafy greens just to make sure that as we're harvesting throughout the year, we have availability for all of our different restaurants and local box members. And we'll be direct sowing beets, corn, okra. - [Phillipe] Yeah, the root system just grows so fast you don't even bother putting 'em in, you know, I guess a cell tray - [Kyle] Definitely, and some of those, they're delicate to transplant or they really benefit from being seeded in quantity out in the field. So it's much more convenient for us. - [Phillipe] And on this mass scale, is there any way that you deal with fungus and bacteria getting in the seedlings? Is there anything that you do to help prevent that? - [Kyle] Yeah, so we're very careful to water the appropriate amount I guess 'cause if you water too much, you sometimes will experience algae growth or other pests will come in, and you want to try and keep the soil about like a moist sponge. So if you were to grab a handful of soil and you were to squeeze it and water came out, that would be too wet, or if you were to feel the soil and it was completely dry, that would be too dry. So we want to keep it somewhere in between. - [Phillipe] With the seeds that you're doing, what's the kind of temperature ranges that we're working in here? - Some of these earlier seedlings that we're starting, the winter crops, the leafy greens, we're gonna be trying to hold the greenhouse between 75 and 85 degrees to get those seeds to germinate. They like a soil temperature in that range. And then when we move into the later season and summer crops, we're gonna try and get the greenhouse a little bit hotter, maybe 85, 90 degrees while they germinate, and then we will take them outside and harden them off and then put them in the fields. - [Phillipe] One thing I noticed that's also very important as far as seeds goes is your soil quality. It's really nice, and it's a good mixture. It's got a lot of grit in it. - [Kyle] Definitely, definitely. - [Phillipe] Can you show me a little bit more about that in your potting shed over there? - Absolutely, yeah. - Great, thanks. So this is some of the prettiest soil I think I've ever seen. - This is actually a new potting soil that we're trying this year. And so far, we've been really, really happy with it. It's pre-ground, and that means that it doesn't clump quite like the soil we were using last year. We have really good drainage, but we also have really good water retention in the soil. So we can hold that sort of rung out sponge moisture level and make sure our seeds germinate really well. - Yeah, and I see a lot of different things in here too that, you know, there's some rocks in here that are helping with drainage. A lot of the soils that, you know, the home gardener's gonna get at home is pretty much straight peat moss. - Definitely, definitely. Yeah, and we have this in our store for sale. And then this potting soil also meets USDA organic standards because we are an organic farm. - So what are some kind of tips and tricks that people can use at home on a smaller scale? - Yeah, so having a good potting soil is key. Keeping those seedlings moist, but not too moist. Having a strong availability of light. So making sure that those plants are having a good 12 hours of light every day, and if that means using an alternative light source, a growing light that helps. Keeping the seedling soil at the right temperature. And then also very, very important is keeping things very clean and sanitary. So we use these new trays every year, but if you are gonna reuse trays, you need to make sure they're very, very clean. Here at Green Door, we follow the USDA organic standards for what solutions to use when we're cleaning the greenhouse and our trays and things if we do end up needing to reuse them. But typically we'll buy new trays just to make sure that everything goes smoothly because we are planting on scale. - [Phillipe] Yeah. Well, thank you so much. - You're welcome. - [Phillipe] I'm looking forward to coming back out and seeing all these seedlings in the fields and everything growing this summer. I can already smell 'em. - Definitely. - Thanks so much. - [Kyle] Thank you. - Through the years of gardening, we seem to collect a lot of different colored containers, plastic, whether they're resin or fiberglass, and there's a technique that we can use that will unify all of these planters and containers and use them for our combination plantings. It's a very simple thing to do. I read it in a magazine, didn't even pull it out. It's that simple. No steps involved. So, to go from this to this, we can go from this inexpensive $3 plastic to this very classy looking wood color. The product you're gonna use is gel stain. Now I'm gonna show you how this was put on here 24 hours ago. It does need that amount of time to keep it from... It was still tacky feeling last night, but today it's all dried out. And just take it. And as you can see what has happened to the original finish. This pot is must have a little bit of styrofoam in it, and, you know, it is a little porous up here at the top, but it's deciding whether or not you want to see brush marks. And I think I'll go back and use this one more time on some of these. And then I wanted to leave some of the original color, so I'll just do sort of a swirl action over this. We'll see how simple that is. And you can take unused items, give them a fresh new face. Now, it did suggest that if you were using this on wood that you would put a finish on it, but we don't need to do that with this. And I think I would not want that shiny finish on this type of product. Now that this first little coat is on this, I'm gonna go around and I also need to finish it on the inside lip. But I wanna go back over here and just see what happens right in here where you can see my brush strokes from yesterday. See how that one last coat, but it does need that 24 hours to dry. And I think, again, once you start to use this, you'll decide for yourself maybe you wanna see the striping from the brush strokes. This is suggested for wood, veneer, fiberglass, and more. And more to me meant this resin and fiberglass containers. Now this finished product, I believe, looks great. This is an example of what is possible for us to achieve with this product. This comes in wood colors. As you can se, there's a lighter color on here. This comes with oak, They even have a darker black finish. But if we were to take, for instance, the technique and how this looks here, we could duplicate that by getting this gel stain in a lighter color and applying it to the raised surfaces. When we're shopping at the end of seasons and we see something that we really like the shape of it, but perhaps it's just not the right color, see, by doing this, we can bring it home and put it in unified colors within the things that we already have on our patios and in our homes. - [Announcer] Tennessee Environmental Council, helping people care for the environment and offering instructions and seed kits for pollinator gardens that bloom into year round habitats. More information at tctn.org.
April 06, 2023
Season 31 | Episode 13
Due to a 50 degree temperature drop that occurred within a span of 8 hours in December, plants suffered damage. Troy Marden does an initial assessement of perennials, shrubs and trees. Phillipe Chadwick checks in on the seed starting operation at Green Door Gourmet in Nashville. Annette Shrader demonstrates a simple way to upscale garden planters.
Watch Clips from this Episode
Dramatic Winter Damage
Troy Marden shares his findings and lends insight into the plant damage that occurred during a rapid and dramatic drop in temperature in late December 2022. Trees, shrubs, and perennials - so many treasured garden plants were affected. Learn how long you should 'wait and see', and what is likely lost in total.