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Take action to save tender plants from late freeze

What could be the eighth-latest freeze in Denver history could cause severe damage to tender flowers and vegetables.

ARVADA, Colo. — Just when you think it’s safe to plant your gardens on the Front Range, Colorado weather says think again. Denver and Colorado are in for a meteorological roller coaster this week, potentially ending with a thump of snow and a freeze on Friday night.

Plant experts at Echter’s garden center have a standard warning for what they call tender plants.

“Anything that’s a tender plant, we say after May 20 is kind of your safety zone," store manager Julie Echter said. "But usually people do gamble a little bit.”

Check out Echter's Frost Hardiness Chart, which lists suggested dates for planting various types of flowers and vegetables on the Front Range. 

Echter said if you’ve already put your tender plants, like tomatoes, in the ground, simple steps can save them.

Many plants can be saved by covering them up with a bucket or trash can. A tarp or frost blanket will also work. Just make sure the enclosure doesn’t collapse from heavy snow or make contact with the leaves.

“Also, water really well before the storm," Echter said. "If the soil has moisture in it, it actually creates more insulation for the plants than if the soil is dry.”

The time to cover will be Thursday night.

A big temperature drop is expected, going from a high near 90 degrees in Denver on Thursday afternoon, down to 40 degrees by Friday morning.

RELATED: This week's snow could break all sorts of records for Denver

The temperature should rebound briefly on Friday afternoon during the first rain showers, but then get down below freezing around midnight and stay in the low 30s all day Saturday.

The coldest temperatures could come on Sunday morning, which would tie for the eighth-latest freeze in Denver history.

“It’s Colorado. You’ve got to roll with it here, I think,” Echter said.

She said Colorado weather is always a tough opponent for gardeners. We have a short growing season, the sunshine is intense and there is very little water available from Mother Nature. 

Then come the late freezes and the hail.

But she said veggies can be tough. All they need is a little help.

“If they do get damage, don’t completely write them off," Echter said. "Give them a little time to see if they do come back, because plants can be pretty resilient.”

Sprinkler tips

There is no need to blow out your sprinkler lines, as they are protected under several inches of very warm earth. Just cover your backflow preventer that sticks out of the ground. 

And if the forecast is right, most of the Front Range should get close to an inch of water from rain and melted snow. That means you can leave your sprinkler systems off for seven days.

A lawn only needs about a half-inch of water twice per week in the late spring and early summer.

Since you should be watering your garden on Thursday afternoon, you will have to detach your hoses and put them in the garage to protect them from being damaged by freezing water. 

RELATED: Tracking evening storms, high fire danger Thursday, snow and cold Friday

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