COLUMBIA, S.C. — Winter paid the Midlands a brief visit this week with some of our coldest temperatures of the season. In Gandy’s Garden here at News 19, the winter garden was at its peak performance in early January. Cauliflower was ready to be picked, bok choy, lettuce, collards, and parsley were at their fullest, and I even planted some broccoli and spinach seeds in early January that managed to germinate during our mild spell in January. Now that this cold snap is over, I took a look to see if there was any damage.

First, Some January Stats: 

January 2020 will be remembered as a warm month, despite our recent cool down. As of January 23rd, temperatures for the month are running 8 degrees above the average. All but three days have been above average and temperatures only dropped below freezing for a handful of nights.

The cold snap this week didn’t bring our coldest temperatures of the season. Tuesday morning dropped to 28 degrees in Columbia and Wednesday morning dropped down to 25 degrees. This was warmer than our morning low of 23 on December 20th at the Columbia Airport. Just looking at the numbers I am expecting the plants to be more damaged from this January cold snap, even though temperatures didn’t drop as low because of the duration of the cold.

The duration of cold weather is sometimes more important to plant health than the actual bottom line temperature. We spent 12 hours at or below the freezing mark at the Columbia Airport on Wednesday, which is the longest duration so far this season.  Temperatures on Tuesday afternoon only rose to 41 degrees, the coldest afternoon high temperature in Columbia since December 2018.

What’s the damage?

I was most concerned about the Cauliflower because they’re in fruit and the frost clothes fell off on Monday and Tuesday night. I think the infamous deer that love to hang around News 19 are to blame, but either way it left the plants very exposed and very frozen. The cauliflower plants were undamaged, but some of the cauliflower heads did receive damage. The bok choy growing next to the Cauliflower suffered a few frost burned leaves, but overall made it out okay.

Some of the unprotected romaine lettuce was damaged, but the plants are still alive. The Swiss Chard was given a frost cloth and suffered no damage from the cold.

The bed of Romaine, Collard Greens, and Parsley that was protected by frost cloths showed no signs of damage at all.

The new spinach sprouts which germinated from seed just about 2 weeks ago suffered no damage. There was some browning on the broccoli seedlings, but they are still alive

There is still plenty of winter left. February and March both have the potential to be damaging to a winter garden in South Carolina. I’m happy to still have some more opportunities for harvesting, but I realize that it only takes one cold winter night to end a great season of growth.