By Nathan Ham
Winter will not let go of the High Country just yet.
According to the latest weekend forecast from Ray’s Weather Center, rain showers will begin Friday afternoon before turning to snow showers overnight and ending with snow flurries on Saturday morning. Most locations will receive only a light dusting of snow but higher elevations such as Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain will see higher amounts of snow.
The National Weather Service has issued a Freeze Warning from tonight through 10 a.m. Saturday morning and a Freeze Watch from Saturday night through Sunday morning. Low temperatures will dip into the upper 20s, causing cold conditions that could do some serious damage to crops, flowers, and other vegetation for those of you that have already planted gardens.
Temperatures will remain unseasonably cool for May with a high on Saturday in the upper 40s. Things warm up a bit on Sunday but temperatures will still top out somewhere in the mid-50s. Monday and Tuesday will see highs hovering around 50 degrees. Wednesday finally sees a return of warmer weather with temperatures in the 60s and hopefully the exit of the final cold snap of the spring.
Tips to Protect Your Plants
As everyone knows, the weather in the High Country is known to be a bit strange. Warm spells in January and cool spells in the summer are not uncommon. Many backyard growers and gardeners get very excited by 70 and 80 degree days in April and start planting warm-season plants. Yet often, the region gets hit by a frost in the late spring, sometimes even in early or mid-May. This is one of those times.
Here are some tips to protect your plants as temperatures drop this weekend:
- Water your garden thoroughly before the freeze. Make sure both the soil and the plant itself gets watered for protection of the roots and upper portions. If you have a sprinkler, use that. Make sure everything gets sprayed. While it may sound counter intuitive, the water acts as an insulator of sorts. The water freezes and therefore protects the plant matter from freezing. This is a tried and true tip in the orchard industry where fragile flowers can easily be frozen, losing the entire crop of fruit. Running sprinklers before and during a freeze protects the flowers and the buds.
- Cover your plants with a bucket. This will harbor your plants from the worst of the frost by trapping the heat (the ground and soil are warmer than the air) and protecting them from the coldest of the air. Make sure to take the bucket away when the day warms up.
- Cover with lightweight fleece blankets. Covering plants with sheets or blankets risks crushing them but with some care can be used effectively, much in the same way as buckets. It traps the heat and protects them from the frost. If you use a sheet or blanket, synthetic blends are lighter weight than cotton blends and will be less likely to break the plant. Put some wooden stakes or stones around the plant to prop up the blanket for extra care. Remember to remove all coverings once it’s warmer, generally the next day when the sun comes out.
- Cover with a cold frame or hoop house if you have something as fancy as that or you have a large amount of plants.
- Bring in your trays of plant starts. Either into the garage, into the house, or move to a greenhouse.
- Cover with mulch or straw anything that’s hardy enough and established enough that you might be worried about. For very low temperatures, figs for example might need something extra for support.
- Cluster container plants together nearest the house and cover with plastic or blankets. Take care not to crush them.