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Cold Snap Could Harm Garden Veggies, Flowers

Fairbanks Community Garden/Facebook

Rainy weather and a blast of cold air from the north will chill the Interior over the next few days, and area residents may want to cover their gardens and bring their flowerpots indoors overnight, in case it gets chilly enough to frost.

The National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement advising residents of the central and eastern Interior that some cool weather is headed our way.

“We have a cold front that’s going to moving south into the Interior on Thursday, and that’ll produce some showers and thunderstorms around the area,” says Scott Berg, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Fairbanks office.

“And then,” he said, “overnight Thursday, temperatures are going to start falling into Friday morning, where temperatures are going to fall into the 30s, possibly even near freezing. And that’s going to continue Saturday and Sunday before it starts warming back up.”

The cold snap could present a threat to gardens with seedlings and starts and potted plants outdoors. So Berg says gardeners should be prepared to protect those plants over the next few nights.

“If they have any plants outside they can bring inside, it would probably be wise,” Berg said in an interview Tuesday. “If they have starts that are already in the ground, they may want to cover those up to protect them from the cold, as well.”

Credit Fairbanks Gardeners/Facebook
Fairbanks gardener Jess Walter says she's growing garlic and onion from bulbs she planted last fall, s well as strawberries with straw and leaf mulch.

Crystal Risse, who co-owns Risse Greenhouse on Chena Hot Springs Road near Fairbanks, adds, “cover those plants with a sheet, or garbage bag or something so that, if it really does frost, the frost settles on the covering, instead of on your plants.”

Risse says some garden vegetables aren’t susceptible to chilly weather.

“Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – that won’t hurt them,” she said. “They love the cold ground!”

But Risse says it’s important to protect most seedlings and starts from the cold, because if they’re exposed it’ll either kill them or stunt their growth for the rest of the season.

She agrees that potted plants, like flowers, should be brought inside on cold nights. And to prevent straining your back from schlepping the pots back and forth, she suggests making it easier to move them by, for example, putting them on wheels – like that little old wagon that the kids used to play with.

“Make sure that you can move your containers, that they’re not so heavy that you can’t lift them,” Risse said in an interview Tuesday. “My husband says a little red wagon and a piece of plywood are a great investment!”

Many intrepid gardeners around the Interior have already started their gardens. But Risse says she abides by an old rule of thumb long been observed by those who till the soils of the Interior.

“Don’t ignore the June 1st planting date in-the-ground,” she said. “I can count on one hand the number of time that it has not frozen, snowed, hailed.”

June 1st is right around the corner. And Berg, the meteorologist, says temperatures will warm back up beginning Monday. And gardeners should soon be able to let down their guard. Probably.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.