What should you do to protect plants from cold?

Expert says most plants in NE Fla. can sustain cold snap

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The cold weather predicted for this weekend will take its toll on local yards and plants.

But Dave Korlacki, manager at Trad's Garden Center, said depending on the plant, residents may not have to do anything to protect their plants from cold damage.

"People are coming in and asking every day, 'What should I do? What should I do? And I honestly recommend not a whole lot."

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Korlacki said cold snaps are inevitable, and he said luckily most plants in northeast Florida are designed to sustain it.

"People want to build a greenhouse over the top of their yard 'cause they feel like every plant they have is going to be damaged, and that's not the case," he said. "The majority of your plants are going to be fine."

Korlacki said if residents don't do anything to their tropical plants this weekend, they'll still survive. He said for those who have a prized tropical plant and are concerned it won't make it, there are steps they can take.

"You can take a blanket, you can wrap it along the base of the plant," Korlacki said. "The part of the plant that you want to protect the most is the root ball. The top of the plant where you're going to take most of the damage, you don't want to cover it all."

The cold snap will kill warm weather plants, such as tomato plants, banana plants and pepper plants, so residents will want to harvest what they can, even if the fruit isn't yet ripe.

As for yards, Korlacki says hold off the sprinklers.

"I did that and I had ice crystals on my whole front yard, so it's not really that necessary to do," he said. "There's really not a lot of things that you need to do."

Most plants that sustain damage will grow back. As for plants in pots, Korlacki said to move them inside or out of the wind. He said they don't have that extra layer of protection like plants in the ground.

Use fire safety with space heaters, AC units, fireplaces

As the temperatures plummet outside, many will turn up the heat inside. And for local firemen, that is when they say they see more fires, many of which are started by space heaters.

They say prevention starts with keeping the space around the heater clear.

"Make sure that they have no flammable material that's close to them if they are going to use a portable heater inside," said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Fire Fighters Association. "Most of them are electric or kerosene, obviously, keeping the flammables away from it."

Though some may want to fall asleep with that heater on, Wyse says it's too risky and they should turn it off.

Those who have to refuel a kerosene space heater should do it outside "that way if you do spill any kerosene on the floor it doesn't become a hazard," Wyse said.

Many will be reaching for the thermostat when the temps drop this weekend. Snyder Heating and Air recommends getting systems checked if it's been a while just to make sure everything is OK.

"When you're starting it up for the first time, you're going to get that burning smell," said Jorge Irizarri, a supervisor at Snyder. "It's very important to keep an eye on it 'cause you never know if something has gotten into the duct work and has fallen on to the heat strip where it can cause a fire."

There is even advice for those taking a more natural approach.

"A lot of people use fireplaces in this time," Wyse said. "Making sure that they are maintained is the most important thing, making sure that none of the logs roll out and making sure that they're clean."

Fire officials also say this is a good time to check smoke detectors and make sure the batteries are working.
That could be your first signal that something is wrong and could save lives.