by Charlene Burgi
Weather warnings indicate that there will be record-breaking low temperatures in the next few days. Information on insulating exposed water pipes is available here.
In addition to preparing pipes for the freezing temperatures, it is also important to protect backflow devices with backflow device blankets that can be purchased at local irrigation supply stores. If you are reading this after supply stores have closed, use old towels, blankets or burlap to wrap around exposed pipes and backflow devices and cover with plastic to keep the material dry. Secure the plastic with duct tape.
You can also take some precautionary steps to protect frost-sensitive plants:
1. Create a tent constructed of tree stakes and cover with a sheet, blanket or plastic taking care that the covering is not touching the plant parts. Remove the covering during the daylight hours. If necessary, place a low watt oven or refrigerator light bulb under the sheet to elevate the temperature on specimen plants.
2. When you have time, paint capped plastic one gallon milk bottles flat black, and place them in the sun during the day. At night the bottle can be placed under the tent near the plant to act as a “space heater.”
3. If the plant is small, remove the bottom from a one gallon milk bottle and place the capped bottle around the plant with a weight at the top, such as a brick, to hold in place.
4. Move all frost-tender container plants under cover or into the garage. If plants become frost damaged, leave the damaged portion on the plant as it will protect the vegetation below in the event of future freezes. In spring, after the danger of frost is over, prune the plant back to healthy tissue.
5. Mulch, mulch, mulch to keep the roots of the plants protected.
6. Watch for wilting plants under eaves or in containers. Plants may need irrigation due to a long dry spell and the drying effects caused by cold temperatures. However, irrigation during a freeze can be tricky. Overhead irrigation could potentially freeze the cells of the leaves. If you must, hand water or use a drip system and do so in the morning, not in the evenings. Remember that plants are dormant right now. If you do not see signs of wilting, they may be getting enough moisture from the morning dew.
7. Lastly, enjoy the bright side of this cold snap. Peaches and lilacs love the winter chill and will be bursting with heavy blooms this coming spring!
Take care and stay warm.