- April 28, 2017
Protect plants from this weekend’s snow storm
The snow storm hitting Colorado’s Front Range this weekend with snowfalls up to 7 inches can put plants at risk. If the early spring weather prompted you to plant a few tomatoes and peppers before last date of frost, there’s the risk that late – and heavy – spring snows along with a hard freeze will damage or kill those tender plants.
What’s a gardener to do? Be prepared, do what you can – and know the rest is up to Mother Nature.
If you couldn’t resist planting a few tomatoes and peppers early, you might be able to get them through the coming spring storm. The major damage from spring snow storms is breakage and crushing from the heavy snow load. Your job to protect is two-fold: protect from crushing snow loads and keep plants warm enough to avoid frost/freeze damage.
Household items such as 1 gal. or larger plant containers, empty buckets or sturdy cardboard boxes can be dropped over early-planted annuals to protect them from being crushed by heavy snow. Once in place, the containers work to your advantage by collecting snow that acts as an insulator for the plants. Even at temps at or below 28 degrees – the benchmark for a hard freeze – plants can be protected.
Low-growing, emerging perennials won’t need to be covered. The snow on its own will help insulate them from frost and freeze.
Trees in leaf
Covering trees with a container obviously won’t work, but protecting them from heavy snow still applies. Kevin Wood with the Colorado State Forest Service recommends gently shaking the branches periodically (use a broom handle) so snow falls off.
The goal is to keep the entire accumulation from the storm from sitting on a branch at one time. Shake the lowest branches first so snow from above doesn’t overload them as it falls. Work from the bottom up – and then shake lower branches again, if needed.
Fruit trees in Colorado are always at risk of losing their fruit from late spring storms. Sometimes, the snow may be an insulating factor, but snow-laden branches can also break and a windy storm can shake snow off. Protect branches from heavy snow load, then wait and see what happens is the prevailing advice.
If you have applied granular fertilizer to the lawn, moisture from this snow storm will activate it. The moisture will push nutrients into the soil where roots can absorb them. In a snow storm, turf grass is one worry-free plant.
Be prepared. Protect your plants. And take advantage of what might be the last snow storm of the season to sit down and plot out this season’s planting plan for the veggie garden and flower beds.