Winter is on its way in Central Texas, and that means it’s time to prepare and protect your plants and pipes!
Some might think, “well if it doesn’t rain, it won’t freeze.” Frost develops on clear nights, and the rule of thumb is anytime temperatures are expected to be 32 degrees or below, you should prepare for a freeze.
So, what should you do?
- Turn off your sprinklers
In our region, the most valuable adjustment you can make is to reduce the watering schedule or simply turn off the irrigation controller during the winter months. Because the temperatures are cooler, less water is lost to evaporation and transpiration and plants simply do not need as much to replenish what is lost. In addition to cooler temperatures, winter is typically our rainy season too, so it’s best to take advantage of the free, nitrogen-rich rainfall. During normal winter conditions, the irrigation doesn’t need to be turned on more than once per month, if at all.
- Protect your outdoor plants
If weather is expected to hit 32 degrees or lower, protect your plants! Our first freeze occurred the morning after Halloween 2019, and for some people, it came as a surprise when they walked outside to see ice frost everywhere. Some people, like myself, were saddened to see that some plants have died due to the freezing temperatures.
- Bring potted plants inside but be careful not to leave these plants too close to a heater vent because they can dry out.
- The best way to protect outdoor plants from freezing is to cover them with a material that acts as an insulation and allows moisture to escape. There are different plant protecting products on the market, but the easiest and cheapest thing to use is a bed sheet. The best time to cover plants is before it gets dark so that the stored heat doesn’t escape. Make sure that the entire plant is covered, and the cover reaches the soil.
- Compost and mulch outdoor plants thoroughly. These two layers will help insulate the plant’s root zones while supplying the plant with needed nutrients. Two inches of mulch is ideal, and remember, not too close to the trunk of trees or shrubs. Mulch should be about two finger widths away from the truck.
- Water, but avoid moisture on the plant leaves and stems–this means hand-water. When freezing temperatures are expected, watering can benefit plants. Water acts as an insulator, and water also helps retain heat so moist soil will stay warmer than dry soil.
Some people, including myself ask if Texas really needs to worry about pipes freezing. Well it doesn’t freeze that often in Central Texas, but there are still chances for pipes to freeze.
Some apartment complexes and neighborhoods will post signs along roads warning resident to drip their faucets for the freezing weather to come. If your area does not post warnings, you should always check the weather and news for freeze warnings.
What should you do to protect your pipes?
Insulate and Drip!
- Drip outside faucets
When water freezes, it expands and can put pressure on any pipe material. Freezing temperatures even in Texas can cause pipes to break. The places where pipes are at risk of freezing are exposed and outdoors, unheated areas, and pipes that run against exterior walls that have no insulation.
Water is much more likely to freeze when stationary, so it’s good to let water moving through your pipes.
- Drip outside faucets 24 hours a day to help prevent your pipes from freezing. This is not necessary unless temperatures are expected to be 28 degrees or below for at least 4 hours. (Be sure to turn off the faucets after the threat of freezing weather.)
- To save water, use a bucket to catch the water dripping and use it to brush your teeth, cook, or water plants.
- Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
- Wrap all exposed pipes located outside or in unheated areas of the home.
- Remove garden hoses from outside faucets. Insulate outside faucets with Styrofoam cover, rags or paper.
Like I said before, the threat of pipes freezing where we live is not common, but when winter weather comes, you don’t want to be caught by surprise with broken pipes. On the other hand, plants freezing is more common. So be prepared to protect your plants and pipes this winter. Make sure you take precautions and check weather daily in the winter.