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As you know, January is probably the slowest time of the year for the garden and this year it is slower than normal because it has been brutally cold and a little snowy. We actually had daffodils blooming last year at this time, which was ridiculously early even in protected areas! There are a few things to discuss, however. First of all, the fruit crops and most everything that you may have planted that are hardy to zone six are just fine. This year we gradually got colder in November and December before the “polar vortex” settled in so all hardy plants would have successfully went into dormancy and although we have been cold it hasn’t been cold enough to cause hardy plants troubles. In the years that we have plant dieback it is due to unseasonably warm temperatures followed by huge deep freezes. This year everything has stayed in dormancy so no problems.
The few plants that the cold has or will cause problems on are hybrid tea roses if you didn’t cover the bud union with mulch to help protect it from freezing (these are borderline hardy here without cover), the leaves of southern magnolia have some foliar burn from the cold wind which is common in Kentucky because again we are on their northern fringes of hardiness, figs even the Chicago Hardy are probably dead to the ground but they will come back from the root and Chicago will still give you figs this fall, crepe myrtle and the mop head hydrangeas will likely have some dieback as well. These problems are common on the above mentioned plants as they are borderline hardy in our zone if we have a real winter like this year. The good news is that all of our fruit crops are safe for now because they are hardy in this weather! The longer we stay cold actually the better because it keeps them from budding too early and will keep them from getting frozen by late spring frosts.
While on the subject of cold weather, I wanted to sadly dispel the myth that cold weather is going to reduce our insect troubles over the course of our growing season. Contrary to popular belief, this cold weather isn’t going to hurt most insects (excluding honeybees) especially the bad ones. Insects go into dormancy much like plants and have natural antifreeze so to speak. The only way cold weather is going to hurt them is if we have a huge warm spell like a couple of years ago in March where it stayed very warm for several weeks and then dropped to record lows in April. This hurt them because they lost their dormancy just like plants and they had no defenses against the cold. This year is completely different they are in hibernation mode and the cold isn’t really a factor for them.
Now on to some upcoming meetings I wanted to let you know about. Monday, Feb. 3, Dr. Tom Webster from Kentucky State University will be the guest speaker at the Lincoln Trail Beekeepers Association Meeting at the Washington County Extension Office at 6:30 p.m. All are invited even if you aren’t a member of the association. Dr. Webster is a state specialist in beekeeping.
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m., at the Washington County Extension Office we will have a formation meeting of the Washington County Master Gardener Association. All Master Gardeners that completed the training through the Washington County Office over the past eight years or anyone who completed the program in other counties and moved here are invited to attend/join. This will be a wonderful opportunity for gardeners to share knowledge, interests, and help make a difference in our community. Please call me at the office at 859-336-7741 to let me know if you plan to attend.
Finally, just a heads up that the Gardener’s Wheelbarrow Series Sign Ups are ongoing and if you want to guarantee you get what you want sign up soon! Happy gardening!