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Big temperature drop raises concerns about plants, underground sprinklers

Posted at 3:25 AM, Oct 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-08 07:50:58-04

DENVER – A slow-moving storm with rain, snow and cold temperatures is expected to linger over the Front Range for the next few days.

With temperatures expected to drop near freezing Monday night, many homeowners are asking about plants and sprinklers.

“We still have veggies in the garden,” said Melody Macinas, “we’re going to have to pull them out.”

But Macinas isn’t ready to do the same thing with her flowers.

Like many residents, she wants to hang on, as long as possible, to the last vestige of summer.

“We still want to protect them and keep them,” she said.

Sprinkler Concerns

Other residents are wondering if their if their sprinkler systems are safe, or whether they need to be drained.

Master Gardener Luan Akin, the outreach ambassador at Tagawa Gardens, said “the ground has so much warmth that I don’t think you have to drain the sprinkler system yet, but I would be doing any watering that I think my plants might benefit from, by hand.”

Sprinkler repair experts say pipes underground should be fine, but it would be wise to wrap those exposed above ground, like the backflow preventer, with a blanket or insulation, and a plastic bag.

Bring House Plants in Now

Akin said it’s essential that plants be watered to maintain heat in the soil.

She said if you have house plants outside, “bring them in now.”

“Most house plants we grow in this area are tropical,” she said, “so stop what you’re doing and bring them in.”

Holding a small basil plant in her hand, Akin said, “It can look at a cold front and die, so if you have anything like this, (or certain succulents,) you’d better bring them in now.”

Frost Blankets

As for regular plants, Akin said you can cover them up with a commercial frost blanket.

“It will capture maybe five or six extra degrees,” she said.

For plants in big pots, she suggests placing a metal or plastic rod in the center of the pot and then draping the frost blanket over it, like a tent.

“One of my pet peeves,” she said, “is when people try to cover their plants, and assume the wind isn’t going to blow.”

She suggests using binder clips to anchor the blanket in place.

“They’re much better than clothes pins,” she said. “You clip that puppy on, a few more around the edges and they’ll hold it in place.”

As for flower beds, Akin said the blanket can be spread out over the entire bed and anchored with rocks, bricks or old timbers.

“If there’s going to be heavy snow, use something underneath to support the blanket,” she said. “One of my favorites, laundry baskets.  It’s an excuse not to do laundry for a day or two.”