A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

First Frost

We just had a first frost in Houston. Just a few weeks ago we had temperatures in the high eighties, and now we have the glistening of a light cover of ice on rooftops and grass. Residents never seem prepared for this day. Potted plants will be pulled in today, and other plants will be covered by old heavy blankets. I am sure that I will get a call from my parents to come over and lift the heavier pots into the garage or house. My father guards his collection of cactuses like they were his children. Fortunately for me, I have already been heaving these large pin cushions into their home.

The idea of using blankets intrigues me. We care enough to protect our tropical friends from the biting cold, but we smother them in the process. Light does not streak through these covers, and rain makes them weigh more, so branches will find themselves under more strain. Row covers do not cost much, and they protect from them from Jack Frost without the damage inflicted by blankets. The nice thing is that our garden centers keep these covers close to the register this time of year.

I like to add a little warmth by making my own passive solar heater. They are complicated to make, since my family has to drink a liter bottle of soda, and we do not partake of that beverage often. Just take off the wrapper on the plastic bottle, and fill it with water. Place the heaters by the base of the plant. Of course, I already have a winter coat of mulch on the beds. I only put the row covers on my pepper plants. I try to have plants that are used to our climate, so I do not mind seeing them go through their cycles. Grasses waving in the wind are wonderful to see. My daughter and I were watching their flower heads bounce about yesterday.

Annuals will just be pulled out when the ice has finished it’s assault. I have not checked yet, but I am sure my stand of basil needs to be fully harvested. My other herbs fair better. The only shrub that I will have to deal with this week will be the crepe myrtles. I am going to prune the branches, so these trees will not grow larger next year. I can chip them for some more mulch.

Well, my daughter informs me that it is time to go and explore in the garden once more.

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