"Did the cold weather kill the bugs?"
That's the question cockeyed optimists like me are asking following our recent spell of cold weather. The bugs in question refer to our usual garden pests: aphids, slugs, spotted wing drosophila, stink bugs and squash bugs, to name a few.
We can only hope. Next spring will tell us whether the extended freeze made a dent in the population. But before we begin a victory dance, we need to keep in mind that insects of all kinds have survived harsh conditions for millions of years, and they'll probably survive this one, too.
Many of the listed insects overwinter as eggs, and they are mighty tough. Also, the eggs may be in the ground, in cracks of plant stems, under mulch or in other protected places. Nevertheless, we may see a decrease in populations of some of these critters if they were caught unawares.
However, there is another side of the coin: Adverse conditions may have killed some of the beneficial insects, too. So all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and our observation senses on alert when spring arrives.
Many gardeners are also wondering about their plants. The same answer applies to them — it is too early to tell. We'll just have to wait and see.
Certainly the best chance of survival for your landscape plants is if they are natives. Your native madrone, oaks, vine maple, cedars and pines, old garden or wild roses, for instance, should be just fine.
Certain plants will be less likely to survive. Many plants are referred to as "borderline" in our Zone 7, such as palms and other tropicals, oleander, escalonia, star jasmine, olives, figs, some rhodies, plus many, many others. Although they might survive most winters in the Rogue Valley, this one has been a near record-setter.
Some conditions will put any plant in jeopardy, such as ones in containers, as the entire potful of soil might freeze. Those that were planted late in the season and did not have a chance to develop a good root system or to get hardened off are also in danger.
For questionable survivors, be patient and give the plant a chance to show you it did survive. It may be slow to start, but perhaps only the top part of the plant froze and it will come back from the roots. The freeze may have long-term effects on some plants, and it will take a long time for them to come back. Do not fertilize with the hope of hastening the process — let the plant recover in its own time.
If you have lost some plants, look at the bright side. You have the opportunity to try something new or even redo a part of your landscape that you didn't like very much anyway!
Coming up: The class "Think Spring in December" has been rescheduled and will be held on Thursday, Jan. 9. More information later.
There are still openings in the 2014 Master Gardener training program. Classes are held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Wednesday from Jan. 15 to April 10. For more information, call Bob Reynolds, coordinator of the program, at 541-776-7371.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.