The National Weather Service predicts freezing temperatures tonight and Saturday night, and gardeners should take steps to prolong the growing season or harvest their crops.
The thermometer will dip below freezing after midnight tonight as a cold front moves from the Western Slope up the Arkansas River Valley, Kathy Torgerson, National Weather Service meteorologist in Pueblo, said.
“A killing freeze is possible,” Torgerson said.
The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures tonight and Saturday night will sink into the mid-20s.
Will this be 'the killing freeze ' in Buena Vista?
BV weather expert Mal Sillars thinks it will be. We've already been down in the 20s, so we've already been there, he said.
"You have to get below 28 degrees for five or six hours to get the killing freeze," he said. "I think some people already have (had the killing freeze), but it depends on where on the hill you are."
Friday's predicted low of 24 is lowest it's been for us this fall, Sillars said.
"If it hasn't been killed yet, it will probably get it tonight," he said. "We haven't been that cold (mid-20s) for more than a couple hours near sunrise.
"This will be the second push of cold air, so this will likely be it."
BV residents woke to views of deeper snow than has been seen so far this fall on the Collegiate Peaks west of the valley Friday morning.
"It's looks bright and powdery, so it's probably thick enough to be several inches," he said. "Typically, Mount Columbia gets the most just because of the way systems move up the valley," he said.
The predicted weather could damage tender crops, and gardeners may want to harvest or bring them inside before the frost hits, Marilyn Moore, Salida Community Garden coordinator, said.
“Pull up whole tomato plants and hang them until the green tomatoes ripen, or wrap the green tomatoes in newspaper until they ripen,” Moore said.
Regarding pepper plants and others that don’t handle cold well, Moore said she covers them with winter-weight Reemay, a heavy-duty fabric that helps insulate the plants.
“Some gardeners use bed sheets, but remember that whatever you use is only going to insulate the plants as much as it insulates you,” Moore said.
The National Gardening Association reports that peas, lettuce, cole crops (such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower), beets and chard can withstand a frost.
Root crops get insulation from the surrounding earth and should survive the freeze, Moore said.
“If it’s a harvestable size, just go ahead and harvest it,” Moore said.
Once plants have met their demise in frigid weather, a gardener may chop the plants up and put them into a compost pile, as long as they’re not diseased or weeds that are going to seed, Moore said.
After a gardener removes the plants for winter, Moore recommends applying manure or other fertilizer that changes the composition of the soil to give it time to balance out and to allow the cold winter to kill any harmful pathogens that may be in the added manure.
Chaffee County Times editor David Schiefelbein contributed to this report.