Master Gardeners: Spring was upon us – what happened??

Published 12:03 am Saturday, February 13, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Sheri Bethard

Orange County Master Gardeners


With all the nice weather/temperatures we have had the past several weeks or so, we have gotten into the swing of “let’s get the garden ready to plant”. Well, this weekend the nice temperatures will be gone with the wayside and winter will be back with a vengeance. And it looks like we will have six more weeks of winter based on what the groundhog and our local animal personality say.

I had not heard that Big Al, the lead attraction at Gator Country was a predictor of the seasons until this year. I am sure he has been doing this for a good while. So, here is a little information I obtained thru one of the newsletters I receive each week from Nature’s Way Resources between The Woodlands and Conroe on IH45. I thought it was very interesting and wanted to share.

“Groundhog vs. alligator: Punxsutawney Phil can breathe easier. Big Al agrees.

Six more weeks of winter.

It’s not that we don’t believe the famed groundhog. It’s just that, here in Texas, we gardeners think an alligator has a better perspective for us. This is important, after all.

It’s hard to argue with Al, who – at 1,000 lbs – is the largest alligator in captivity.  He’s living out a comfortable old age at Gator Country on I-10 East at Beaumont in the caring hands of famed gator rescuer Gary Saurage.

Most important, Big Al has 100%-accuracy prediction rate of the arrival/non-arrival-yet of spring.  The ‘hog’s rate is less than 50%, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

Of course, Big Al has genetics on his side. His favorite food is Kentucky Fried Chicken. He won’t turn it down once – and not until – all danger of winter has passed.

Gators are physically unable to eat, their bodies cannot digest food, until their weather-radar approves. If the gators aren’t eating, know there are more freezes ahead.

Big Al’s ignoring his KFC. So, put off planting anything tender for a while.

(By the way, Gary adds, this is also the time when most alligator shows are filmed. As long as the water temperature is below 68˚ alligators can’t eat you, so aren’t dangerous. Who else would tell you these things?) “

In January I shared the article Saving your Plants from a Spring Cold Snap in this paper. I wanted to revisit some of the things you can do to protect your plants since we are going to be having more winter like temperatures the next couple of weeks.


  1. Water your plants well and deeply as damp soil holds any daytime heat in the soil. Do not wet the leaves.
  2. Cover tender plants with frost cloth or something more insulating than plastic. Place bricks or stakes to keep the cloth from blowing up creating a heat barrier around your plant. IF you do not remove plastic the next sunny day, your plants will burn. You can use buckets, milk jugs, etc. cutting out the bottoms to slip over the plants.
  3. Fill jugs with water days prior to the cold snap placing around the base of the plants to capture the heat from the sun. Black jugs capture more heat.
  4. Don’t mulch up close to your plants and mulch keeps the ground cooler in the winter.
  5. If you can wrap tender trees and shrubs trunks with burlap to protect from cold temps. Depending on the size of the trunk you could also use foam pipe protectors.

All in all, taking some simple precautions, you can protect your plants from this cold snap.

For your horticulture/gardening questions, please call our Hot-Line 409 882-7010, Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or email us at