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Special Section

Gardening: Does last-minute watering work?

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February 22, 2011 | 1,280 views | Post a comment

Q.What is the deal with watering plants at the last minute before a freeze starts? Surely that does not help protect a plant from cold weather damage?

A. There is no evidence that last-minute watering has a positive impact on plants going into a freeze. They need time to utilize the water.

It also does not make sense to think water applied at the last minute is enough to insulate or protect plants because of the latent heat that is released when water freezes. With a set amount of two or three or even 20 gallons of water applied to the plant and surrounding soil, the total latent heat is not enough to keep the plant warm.

Where water does work is if it is applied constantly over the duration of the freezing temperature. The new water is releasing latent heat constantly and the ice on and in the vicinity of the plant stays at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

The moral is: Water your plant as it needs water, but do not bother standing out in the wind and cold at 8 p.m. in the evening before freezing temperatures arrive. It won’t help!

Q.What is the best blackberry for this area?

A. I have had good luck with Brazos. Larry Stein, the area fruit specialist with the AgriLife Extension Service, says Kiowa may be the best. Try both.

Q.When will the hummingbirds arrive for the spring?

A. Usually about March 1. In my landscape, I first see them on crossvine or Texas Gold columbines that are blooming at that time.

Q.What is the name of the weed that grows like a vine and clings to itself and everything else when you pull it?

A. It is called bedstraw. Apparently, at one time it was used as a filling for mattresses in pioneer homes. Prevent it and other winter weeds with a pre-emergent applied about Sept. 1.

Q.Will the freeze have damaged my bermuda grass lawn? It was dormant when the really cold weather arrived.

A. I think there will be very little freeze damage to lawns. Most were dormant and had received several good rains in January.

Q.Will the “Heat Wave” tomato be on the market this spring? It is my favorite.

A. There may be a few transplants offered as heirloom tomatoes. Seed companies are no longer preparing the fresh hybrid seed. For a Yellow Tomato Wilt Virus-resistant tomato, look for “Tycoon.” It looks like it will be a good new variety.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at reader@wcn-online.com.

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