Transitions in March

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Any gardener or outdoor enthusiast has noticed the blooms appearing everywhere. It seems that is time for spring to arrive. We are just a few days into the month of March. March is a notable and historical transitional month.

Already there is much blooming. Pear trees in landscapes and ornamental varieties around the loop are in full bloom at this writing. My bearded iris is blooming in the back yard. My Mexican peach tree is in full bloom. Roses have put on new leaves. Even my fig is wanting to send up new shoots.

Our native Elm trees (pronounced with a two syllable “El’-lum” if you are an old-timer around here) are wrapping up their blooms. Elm trees started a couple of weeks ago, in fact. Of course, the native Pecan trees will be among the very last to bloom with its catkins. A pecan’s blooms are a sure sign for many that no more frosts should occur.

Mid-March is the historical average last frost date. With nearly 100 years of history, Thursday, March 15, which occurs during most area schools spring break will mark the average date that we have a 50% chance of frosts being behind us. These historical records reach back as long ago as the late 1800’s in many parts of the state.

Doing a quick internet search, I found a site where you can search weather records kept by the Angelina County Airport starting in 1948. Digging deeper, I found a book, Climatological Data book for United States by Sections, Vol VII. This contained weather records for January, February and March of 1920.

For the curious, the last cold snap in 1920 was from March 5-8 where the lows were recorded at 27 to 28 degrees.

This year, the last harsh cold spell last got us down to the lower teens for a couple of days. We will certainly be learning what truly is cold hardy to this area as everything greens up from winter dormancy.

I’ve had calls about citrus, bananas, palms, and other exotic tropical plants. The question is will they make it? I don’t really know.

So much depends on the plant’s specific variety and microclimate where they were growing. My barber’s house on the banks of the Neches River probably benefitted by having protection from the wind and having that “warm” body of water right next to it. Another site on an exposed, wind-swept hill not too far away may have fared for the worse.

As we watch and wait to see what did make it, many gardeners have asked if it would help to cut plants back. It certainly may.

With an investigative eye, take your hand pruners or loppers and make a few cuts into the branches of those plants you are concerned of having lost. As you take a cut or two, examine to see if you are cutting dry, dead plant tissue that succumbed to the freeze or a healthy limb that simply hasn’t started its spring growth.

Certainly, removing dead tissue won’t be a problem and is to be encouraged in all pruning endeavors. Of course, I wouldn’t advise you to cut anything back any more than you would in a normal year.

Outside my window, I have some Meyer lemon cuttings that didn’t make it. My orange tree at home seems to have frozen back pretty good as well. It was a gift from gentleman who has given several away over the years doesn’t know what variety they truly are.

I wonder what gardener in 1920 already had tomatoes in their garden or was trying a citrus tree in their yard when the lows got to 27. Let’s watch and wait, keep notes, and share with each other the lessons learned about what made it.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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