It will be cold tonight. Temperatures barely rose into the 40s today and our sky is clear this evening. There are no friendly blanketing clouds to help keep us warm tonight. Before daylight tomorrow, the temperature may get as low as the lower 20s.
For gardeners, this brings to mind the devastating week of cold weather that we had one year ago at this time. After many years of extremely mild winters during which many Southeast Texas gardeners had added lots of tropical plants to their gardens, all of a sudden we had a return to temperatures that were more appropriate to a Zone 8B winter. It was quite a shock to many.
I looked back at my garden journal to recall the temperatures of that cold, cold week in 2010. It began on January 5, when the high was 48 degrees and the low was 27. For seven days thereafter the temperature never rose above 57 during daylight hours and at night, the lows fell well into the 20s every night. On one night, January 9, we reached a low of 18 degrees. That's when many poor plants that had been able to hang on until then finally gave up the ghost.
It's not expected to get that cold, or stay cold that long, this year. By this weekend, the temperatures are expected to begin moderating once again. Within a couple of weeks after that, we'll probably begin seeing more signs of the coming spring. A short cold spell like this, however, will be quite sufficient for those of us who do prefer at least a little bit of real winter to balance out our six or seven months of summer.
Until the weekend and the return of warmer temperatures, do what you need to do to take care of your plants, and please, don't forget to provide extra protection and warmth for any outside pets you may have. They are not used to cold weather either.
And, of course, don't forget to feed the birds!