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Waiting for the First Freeze

Debbie Roland, Master Gardener

We walked into a restaurant today and, in the celebration of the Halloween/Fall Festival season, there was a talking skeleton sitting in a chair by the door. It took me by surprise, but also made me smile. The kids were entertained but I thought “That’s me, waiting on the first freeze.” I spend this time every year trying to figure out when I need to move all my potted plants into the greenhouse. I text my Master Gardener friends back and forth and wonder what day it will be. Should we just cover or start moving things to a warmer place?

My oldest son (now 43) has been fascinated by all aspects of the weather since he was about seven. On one of his early birthdays, I took him to watch J. Gordon Lunn (remember him?) broadcast the local weather. He still talks about that. His interest in all things weather persists and he married a woman who has the same interest. He gets closer to an accurate weather forecast that anyone I know, so I call him all the time – is it going to rain at my house? Does that cloud have a tornado in it? Snow? I asked him last night “Celey, when is the first freeze?” His very serious response? “Mom, I really don’t know. We’ve got to have something to drop the jet stream down to us and I just don’t see it happening yet.” Whew, I bought a few more days.

The local Master Gardener calendar lists our average first date of freeze as November 1. The Farmers Almanac states that there is a 30% chance of it happening before that date. Freezes are classified as:

· Light freeze: 29 degrees to 32 degrees F – tender plants are killed.

· Moderate freeze: 25 degrees to 28 degrees – widely destructive to most vegetation.

· Severe freeze: 24 degrees and colder – heavy damage to most plants.

All of that can be affected by any microclimate you have created in your yard or garden by fencing, areas protected by buildings that hold heat during the day and maybe into the night, etc.

If you haven’t planned what to do to over-winter your plants or made a run to the store for your tarps to cover plants that can’t be moved, now is probably the time. Happy Fall!

If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.


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