Hard freeze ahead of unusual September snow storm will have big impact on plants, flowers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s unusual for a hard freeze like the one expected Monday night to occur so early in September, according to Todd Hagenbuch with the Routt County CSU Extension.
Temperatures around the county are expected to drop quickly from the day’s high in the 80s to around 20 degrees, according to forecasters. That drop will have significant effect on local horticulture if action isn’t taken.
“A drop of 60 degrees — that’s a pretty big drop and hard on plants and animals both,” Hagenbuch said.
But it’s not impossible to salvage what’s been planted throughout the summer, it’ll just take some extra care.
Hagenbuch said any annuals planted in pots need to be taken inside if possible. Not only just to save the plants, but cold temperatures can freeze soil and lead to broken pots. Annuals that are planted in the ground need to be tented with cloth, then plastic to keep them dry. The fabric should not touch the plants and be high enough so that any heavy snow or precipitation that would weigh it down doesn’t lay on the plants.
Any perennials that are in bloom needs to be protected, as well. Plants and flowers that have already bloomed should be OK, according to Hagenbuch.
But the most vulnerable will be peoples’ vegetable gardens, he said.
The anticipated weather event prompted Hagenbuch and his Routt County CSU Extension colleague, Libby Christensen to put together an emergency canning demonstration and Q & A live session on Facebook. That will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
If they haven’t already, people should go out and harvest as many of the vegetables ready to pick as possible, especially any tender summer squash, zucchini or cucumbers. Remaining plants should then be tented with cloth and plastic. Root vegetables should be OK, but be sure to cover even the cold hearty vegetables, like broccoli, just to be safe.
Due to the hard freeze that is expected to hit Routt County on Monday night, the Routt County Extension Office will be offering a basic hot water-bath canning event via a Facebook Live at 3 p.m. Tuesday on the Extension’s Facebook page at facebook.com/csuextensionofrouttcounty. Libby Christensen, family and consumer science agent, will be available to answer canning and freezing questions, and Todd Hagenbuch, agriculture agent, will answer garden and tree questions. Participants will learn high-altitude canning techniques for fruit and pickle canning during the virtual event. Questions can be directed to 970-879-0825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With all the immediate produce that will be picked, people may want to preserve them though freezing or canning. Hagenbuch and Christensen will discuss how all that fresh produce can be kept as long as possible.
Hagenbuch has created a unique way to ensure his garden’s survival — though it’s not always guaranteed.
He keeps the old-fashioned, bulky Christmas lights — type C9 to be exact — and winds them through his garden. He puts metal hoops over those and erects a tent structure covered with cloth and plastic to cover that. He advises not to use plastic unless its first covered with cloth.
“There’s enough heat that comes from the incandescent lights,” he said.
He’s tried the tactic before and managed to raise the temperature several degrees. To raise it more than 12 degrees will be a challenge, he admitted, but he remains hopeful.
The hard freeze will also be a real shock to trees, he said. A similar weather event occurred in October in Denver, and after, Hagenbuch said the number of trees killed on the Front Range was amazing.
“(People) do need to remember this particular event next year when they’re trees are experiencing problems,” he said. “I’m sorry for all the hard work people put into their yards. It’s been a very tough year, and this is kind of a bummer.”
And don’t forget to unhook those hoses and blow them out, if at all possible, Hagenbuch said.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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