DENVER (KDVR) — Spring is technically here, but that does not stop the cold and snow from coming to the Front Range.
With the weather as spring-like as it was in March, you may have been tempted to get an early start on your spring garden this year.
Tuesday will be a Pinpoint Weather Alert Day, with around a half-inch of snow anticipated and temperatures staying in the upper-30s Tuesday, according to Meteorologist Travis Michaels.
With this weather on the way, how can you protect any new plants from a potentially harsh dip in temperatures and the frost that could come with it?
Why is frost dangerous to plants?
Cold temperatures and frost alone are not dangerous to plants.
What is concerning, however, is when the temperatures of the plants drop low enough for ice crystals to form inside cells.
Ice crystals are sharp and can puncture cell membranes, which injures the plant and potentially kills it.
How to protect your plants
Cover your plants
The main way to protect your plants from frost is to cover them. This can be done with things like blankets, sheets or other protective covers.
According to the Colorado State University Colorado Master Gardener Program (CMG), if you choose to use a blanket, make sure it stays dry. If the blanket becomes wet, this can lead to even cooler temperatures for plants.
There are more specialized methods of protection, such as floating row covers. These are lightweight fabrics that lay directly over plants. They transmit light, which allows for protection over an extended period of time, according to CMG.
While many spring plants can tolerate the cold, if there is a hard frost on the horizon, you may want to cover up perennials — flowers that live for more than two years — and bulbs to protect them.
According to CMG, plants can better survive quick temperature changes if their root systems have enough water.
Moisture will also help moderate soil temperatures and protect the root systems.
When should you plant ahead of summer?
The traditional wisdom is to wait until the last freeze of the season to plant, according to CMG. Many times this can fall around Mother’s Day, but it depends on the year.
Waiting until the last freeze prevents you from potentially losing any budding flowers or plants from frost.
Certain plants should be planted later when it is certain there will be no more freezes. These include tomatoes and basil.