From Seed to Seed:
Plants have evolved a range of strategies for thriving in challenging environments. Not only are these adaptations interesting, but many are also of particular interest to teachers using gardening as a teaching tool. Let's take a look at how plants change in response to temperature on a seasonal basis.
hardening-off process is, at least in part, a photoperiodic response; that is, it is a response to changes in day length. Many plants, notably the spring-flowering trees and shrubs, set their flower buds at this time. As the days grow shorter, plants slow and finally stop any new growth. Then the plant withdraws nourishment from the leaves and enters a fully dormant phase.
Different types of plant tissues respond differently to temperature extremes. A peach tree's leaves and branches, for instance, may be able to withstand temperatures of 10F. But the flower buds may be damaged at temperatures below 0F. If the buds are damaged, then the next season's flowers and fruit will be affected. Peach trees thrive in places like Georgia where minimum winter temperatures generally do not go below 0F.
Plants that have not finished the hardening-off process can be damaged by the onset of cold temperatures. Some factors that influence whether or not damage occurs include: the type of plant and its overall health, what stage it had reached in the hardening-off process, and whether the onset of low temperatures was gradual or sudden.
Let's take a break from all of this talk about the cold. Close your eyes
and imagine yourself outdoors, in your shirtsleeves, on a warm, sunny,
windless January day. Most cold regions experience at least one warm spell-or
"January thaw"-during each winter. We humans come out of our "hibernation"
to enjoy the sunshine, so why don't our plants break dormancy and start
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