Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2021
Cold Weather Stuff
The good news is that the snow cover is helpful from a freezing standpoint. It provides an insulating factor for plants and even pipes and equipment to a degree. The bad news is that the temperatures did get as low as predicted – and there may still be more coming our way.
Snow cover can actually help insulate plants from harsh low temperatures
Covering plants is important in the extremely cold weather, but the proper removal of the coverings is also important. If the translucent, light weight, white fabric known as floating row cover or frost blanket has been used, removal is not a rush. It can be left in place for weeks or until the weather completely warms up. Although it really helps block harsh winds and cold temps, it lets the light through and breathe so the covered plants will remain quite happy – in most cases.
On the other hand, solid tarps, blankets and bed sheets need to be removed as soon as possible after the weather has warmed. These heavier materials block the sunlight and breathe so left on after the temperatures start to warm up can stress and even damage the plants. Leaving the opaque coverings on plants for more than a few days can do damage short and long term.
Translucent floating row cover protects from cold and can be left on plants without causing damage
There's a third category of coverings in the middle. Green, light weight cover material is on the market now. I saw more of it in the garden centers than the white "floating" material because the light stuff had been sold out. This material is better than tarps and blankets but can still cause some problems if left on too long. I used this material to cover small ginkgoes and other trees in pots, but I'll remove it all as soon as the temps are back in the double digits. By the way, this is the first time I've ever worried about protecting these plants since the long lasting freezing weather we had in the '83-'84 winter that injured and killed so many plants. During that extended freeze, Texas lost massive numbers of pittosporum, ligustrum, loquat and even hollies and live oaks in some places. Hopefully we are not having a repeat.
For the questions on pruning trees that are damaged by ice and snow, the best advice is to be patient. Loose snow that has built up on limbs can be knocked off to relieve the load, but pruning frozen, bent and damaged limbs should be left alone until things thaw out. If electrical lines or equipment is being pressured by tree limbs, contact a professional tree service to help. Same if access to doors is being blocked. Do not try to do the work yourself. Pruning large limbs that are bent can snap release when cut and cause serious injury.
Pruning frozen perennials, shrubs and small trees will usually do more damage than good. So wait on those as well.