Frozen

2014-11-12 16.09.46I know we live in Colorado, but it feels more like the arctic outside! As I write this, my thermometer is hovering around 2°F—and it’s been there all day! I’m glad I have a nice warm house to bundle up in, but my plants aren’t so privileged. Aside from the potted herbs that I hastily dragged indoors, my shrubs and flowers are stuck where they grow. I have a hunch they’re not all going to make it.

To make matters worse, this fall has been mild, at least until now. With highs in the 60s and even 70s and lows barely below freezing, many of my perennials still had green foliage. It takes gradually cooling temperatures for plants to properly harden for winter. These poor victims never saw it coming!

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A Blanket for Your Garden

Snow at home_LAH_762As I write this, the sky is a brilliant blue, the sun is shining, and the thermometer in my garden reads a pleasant 55 degrees. However, only two weeks ago my plants were subjected to a frigid minus 17, and tomorrow’s high is supposed to barely pass freezing. It’s only February, with plenty of winter yet to come. Sometimes I wonder, how do my shrubs and perennials manage to survive such extremes?

In most years, the parts of the country that experience arctic temperatures also have a significant amount of snow. While we think of snow as very cold, it actually acts as an insulating blanket in our gardens, keeping the soil temperature relatively stable—often not much lower than 32. Then, during warm spells, such as we’re experiencing this week, that snow keeps the ground frozen. Plants stay dormant, and the roots stay buried.

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After the Freeze

rime-ice_blkforest_20091012_lah_3992-1We’ve come to the end of another growing season. Now that we’ve had a hard freeze, you can put up your feet, re-grow your fingernails, and turn your attention elsewhere. Or, you can use the cold months ahead to improve your gardening skills.

With the garden in hibernation, it’s time to:

Check out the new plants on the market. PlantSelect has introduced yet another round of recommendations for Colorado landscapes. See which ones should claim a spot in your yard.

Read up on the latest garden news. Learn about new tools, thumb through the new plant and seed catalogs, and catch up on those gardening magazines you didn’t have time for all summer. Which brings us to…

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When Is the Last Frost?

frosty-tree-home-2009-02-14-lah-253

This last week of gorgeous spring weather has certainly brought out the crowds at the garden centers and home improvement stores. When I visited last weekend, carts full of geraniums, tomatoes, and other tender annuals were lined up at the checkout.

Today, the forecast is for snow. It was 30 degrees when I got up this morning. There was frost on the parked cars. As I type, big flakes are softly landing on the freshly turned soil out my window. I wondered how many of the people I’d seen at the store had gone home and planted their flowers, only to find them blackened after the sub-freezing night.

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