The giant roll of frost cloth was spinning away Thursday morning at Avocado Nursery in Casa Grande as customers chose the lengths they needed as they loaded up to protect plants in their yards.
With a five-night stretch of below-freezing temperatures predicted for Casa Grande, Maricopa and most of Pinal County starting tonight, sensitive desert plants need some protection, Avocado Nursery owner Phil Bond said.
Bond, a 50-year Arizona master gardener, said many Sonoran desert plants commonly grown in Casa Grande yards “can tolerate temperatures to 28 degrees in emergencies.” But, Bond recommends people cover those plants to ensure they survive the cold snap. Frost cloth is a material designed to hold temperatures in to keep a plant warm, but it doesn’t hurt the leaves of a plant if it touches them, he said.
The weather service has issued a freeze watch extending from late Friday night through Tuesday morning, predicting “multiple days of subfreezing temperatures in the lower deserts.”
The service cautions it may issue a hard freeze warning as the week progresses. The freeze warning cautions people that irrigation pipes and water lines could sustain damage.
In your yard, Bond recommends covering young citrus trees to protect their tender leaves and the fruit. If trees are too large to cover, spotlights can be placed under trees, directed toward the top, to offer some heat. Or, do both, Bond said.
For people who choose to use something other than frost cloth, Bond recommends sheets or blankets, not plastic, which can burn a plant.
It’s not necessary to remove the covers during the day, he said, but people can if they choose.
Small plants in flower beds can be covered with mulch or straw, he said.
Most deciduous trees won’t be harmed by the sub-freezing temperatures, he said. But, small queen palm trees and most flowering plants may sustain damage and should be covered. Likewise, ficus trees, young sisso trees and some yuccas and agaves need protection from the frost, Bond said.
The real threat to plants in the next several days, Bond said, is the fact it will be cold for so many consecutive nights.
Bond suggests that people turn their drip irrigation systems on pre-dawn, because the water is warmer than the air temperature and will warm plants at the coldest point of the night.
Pinal County officials remind residents to keep their pets safe on these chilly nights.
Public Information Officer Joe Pyritz said larger animals, such as horses, that must remain outside, should be covered with blankets and be kept under an enclosed space.
Smaller animals, such as dogs and cats, should be brought indoors by around 8 p.m., before the coldest part of the night begins.
“Leaving them out in the cold for a prolonged period of time can really make them sick,” Pyritz said, noting that leaner, thin-coated animals are particularly susceptible to the colder weather.
Pyritz also warned not to place the animals in a car for shelter from the cold, noting that vehicles left outside act as something of a refrigerator and would be just as dangerous for the pets.
People should be sure to check animals water dishes if left outside to make sure they did not freeze overnight, he said. Also, when keeping pets indoors, make sure to use caution in keeping pets a safe distance from space heaters and portable heaters to avoid allowing the pet to sustain burns.
Plumbers are preparing for extra business repairing pipes expected to burst from the freeze, said Linda Currie, office manager of Brutinel Plumbing in Casa Grande.
“We’re sort of gearing up for that,” Currie said. “We’re assuming we’re going to get a lot of calls.”
But Currie offered a simple precaution water users can take to avoid damage to their pipes.
“What we’re suggesting to everyone is that they leave a faucet on ... just where it’s a steady drip or a slow stream,” Currie said.
That will keep the water flowing through the pipes and should help prevent ruptures to inside and outside lines, as well as outdoor faucets, she said. In addition, she said, businesses should insulate back-flow devices with pipe insulation that can be purchased at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
The last big freeze led to a lot of burst back-flow pipes, Currie said.
“We were scrambling,” she said.
Although temperatures are forecast to be low, no records are expected, according to the National Weather Service.
“These types of weather patterns happen occasionally and it has happened before,” said Mark O’Malley, a weather service meteorologist. “We looked back in the history books and yes, it’s been much colder.”
The coldest day ever recorded in the county was 8 degrees on Jan. 17, 1913, at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
Emergency services personnel in Casa Grande are always on the lookout for homeless people who face threats from weather conditions — cold or hot, Casa Grande Police Department Patrol Division Commander Kent Horn told the Casa Grande Dispatch.
“Checking on the health and welfare” of homeless people “is our standard operating procedure year-round,” he said.
Staff writers Melissa St. Aude, Bill Coates and Monitor managing editor Adam Gaub contributed to this story.