To say this year has been unpredictable is an understatement. One of those surprises was the tied record for the area’s earliest first frost. Although some veggie crops may not have faired so well, the freeze luckily was not a deep freeze requiring a close down of our sprinkler systems or worry over newly planted perennials. The forecast doesn’t show signs of deep freeze just yet, but our first tip is to keep an eye on the nighttime temperatures because frost will be here eventually. Here are our tips to help you be prepared when it does come.
It’s About Time To Shut Down Your Sprinkler System
The most important step in winterizing your sprinkler system is to blow it out. Or, put simply, to clear the pipes of all water once you turn off your control clock and switch off the valve on your backflow preventer.
Blowing out your sprinkler system is one of the most crucial elements of the long-term maintenance of your sprinklers and should not be taken lightly. If water sits in the pipes when the temperatures go below freezing, the water will freeze and potentially break the underground pipes creating a costly problem.
To avoid any possibility of breaking a pipe, we highly recommend getting your system blown out by a sprinkler professional. This is a particularly busy time for contractors that offer this service, so consider contacting a trusted contractor as soon as possible to get your system winterized. Resource Central does not partner with specific irrigation companies, but try visiting irrigation.org or scrolling through your local yelp/google reviews to find a certified specialist in your area!
Or if you are confident in your DIY skills and have access to an air compressor, there are plenty of online instructions on how to blow out your system, such as this fact sheet from CSU Extension, this video from City of Broomfield or this video from Ewing Irrigation. There are many more resources online in addition to the links provided here. But when in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact your local sprinkler company to do it for you.
Perennial Gardens & Frost
All of your Garden In A Box plants are “hardened off”, meaning they have been acclimatized to strong sunlight, wind, temperature fluctuations, and they have a thicker “skin” ready for life in the ground. These plants are prepared for the upcoming frequency of freezing temperatures and will soon go dormant for the winter.
– If you recently planted perennials (say less than a month before the first frost), it could be a good idea to protect them for the first few frosts. Otherwise, covering them can be more a matter of preference, since they are hardy perennials. If you are worried about your perennials, keep in mind that freezing temperatures without snow can be tougher on plants than if there is snow on the ground. A layer of snow acts as insulation against the air temperature so the first dry freezes we have, it can’t hurt to give them some extra protection.
– Most importantly, make sure your plant covering reaches the soil completely, but with that in mind feel free to use whatever you have around your house (cardboard boxes, old linens, milk jugs with the bottom cut out, an inverted flower pot, or buckets for some ideas). No matter your covering, keep it from touching the plant’s foliage directly by using stakes or large buckets to keep the material off of the new plants. Be sure to cover them before dark, the night before an expected frost, and remove the covers the next morning to help warm the plants as the sun rises.
– Don’t fret if you see some dieback, or damage on the foliage of your plants after the first few freezes. This is to be expected because of the shock of the cold. Your plants are focusing on establishing their roots in the soil that is still warm from the summer temps, which is the important part!
– Consistent mulching is a great way to retain moisture and warm soil temps year-round, so don’t forget that you can refresh mulch any time of year! We recommend checking on your garden now, at the start of the cold weather season, to see if the layer of mulch is thick enough.
– Lastly, don’t forget that winter watering is a must in Colorado! Next month, we’ll go into more detail on our winter garden tips.