Wichita is forecast to get an early frost Saturday night – the temperatures dropping low enough to protect the pumpkins, pick the peppers and toss a light cover over the impatiens.
Cold air will push into the area Friday evening or Friday night, and the coldest point is expected to be reached overnight Saturday, with a low of 32 or 33 by early Sunday morning, about an hour before sunrise, said Robb Lawson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. The first frost usually doesn’t happen until Oct. 21 to Oct. 31 in Wichita, Lawson said.
Some annuals and vegetable plants will survive a frost, but others need some protection if you want to try to get a few more weeks’ growth or enjoyment from them, extension agent Bob Neier said. So you can leave your petunias and pansies alone, but you may want to throw a light cover over basil and impatiens and vinca. Container gardens can be covered or moved into the garage. Pick your larger tomatoes and peppers and gamble that the smaller ones may yet grow some more, Neier said.
“At the Neier house, we have too many peppers,” he said, so he and his wife plan to donate the surplus to Plant a Row for the Hungry. Some garden centers and the Kansas Food Bank continue to collect produce for people in need.
Temperatures have already been low enough to bring houseplants in for the winter. If you still need to do the task, blast the plants with a spray of water from a hose and, if you want to force insects out of the soil, place the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes, horticulturist Ward Upham said. Place the plants in the brightest spot in the house at least initially.
The Sedgwick County Zoo will accept donations of tropical and perennial plants and cactuses (on a case-by-case basis) in pots 12 inches and larger from 8:30 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 21 in the parking lot. You can request a plant pickup for large plants the week after by calling 316-266-8313.
If you’re already decorating your front porch with pumpkins, you may want to move them to a warmer spot on cold nights to make them last longer.
A hard freeze occurs when the temperature drops into the upper 20s, and that will take out another tier of annual plants. Lawson sees nothing like that in the near-term forecast; it usually happens the first week in November, he said. After Saturday night, Wichita will return to more normal weather for early October, Lawson said – but normal this time of year is a roller-coaster.