How to protect your garden as temperatures get cooler

Oct 26, 2023, 6:00 AM

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan shows off ex...

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan shows off examples of water-wise landscaping on Monday, May 1, 2023. As temperatures drop, It's time to start thinking about how to protect your garden and sprinklers from the cold. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As temperatures drop, it’s time to start thinking about how to protect your garden and sprinklers from the cold.

J&J Nursery and Garden Center‘s General Manager Andy Stevenson said it’s important to cover up tender plants like tomatoes when it gets cooler outside. He advised using a tarp, plastic, or even old sheets. He said the thicker the cover is, the better. It’s like putting a coat on your garden. 

“Anything to just protect that frost from hitting the leaves,” he said. “As soon as it (frost) hits the leaves, the stems or anything, it’s gonna take it out.”

When it comes to annual flowers, while some may be able to take the cold, Stevenson said it’s important to cover those as well. Along with this, he said moving porch planters into the garage or indoors for the night will help protect those from the cold.

Gardeners don’t have to worry too much about their trees and shrubs, according to Stevenson.

“They’re all going into dormancy anyways,” he said. “So, all the nutrients and all the energy is being sucked down into the root system right now … They’re basically going to sleep for the winter.”

Along with this, plants with “woody” stems, like raspberries and blackberries, are durable in the winter. Gardeners shouldn’t have to worry about them, according to Stevenson. What they should be paying attention to is things like tomatoes and peppers.

When do I uncover my garden?

It’s important for gardeners to know to uncover their plants when the sun comes out.

“If you’ve got, like, a clear piece of plastic and it’s over the top of all that stuff … you can actually cook the plants,” Stevenson said. “It’s like putting them in an oven and underneath a magnifying glass cause of the clear plastic.”

However, Stevenson isn’t too worried about this happening with our current temperatures. It’s important to uncover plants if the temperature is in the 40s or higher.

Pick em’ or lose em’

According to Stevenson, plants that aren’t ripe by the time it gets cold are not hopeless. He’s got a trick.

“If you have green tomatoes on your tomato plant, go out and pick them all,” he said. “Take them in the house and set them in the window sill and they’ll actually ripen on their own.”

The best thing to do as the season ends is to pick what you want off of your plants now, according to Stevenson. After this, he said, “let Mother Nature do (her) thing.”

What about my sprinklers?

When it comes to sprinklers, Stevenson said shut them off.

“Go and open up any taps that are hooked to the sprinkler system,” he said. “Not the house ones. The ones that are … attached to a secondary water system.”

For the most part, sprinkler systems are pretty tough because they’re underground, according to Stevenson. For water inside a sprinkler system to freeze, there would have to be multiple nights of “really cold” temperatures.

Another thing he advised is to undo all hoses attached to outdoor spigots.

“Just unscrew those hoses,” Stevenson said. “It, kind of, helps the little spigot … kind of drain itself.”

Allessandra Harris contributed to this story.

Keep reading: This is how the heat impacts your garden

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How to protect your garden as temperatures get cooler