Scott Evans is warning gardeners: This is not a drill.

The temperature really is going to hit the freezing mark soon in the Omaha area, with a 30-degree reading expected Friday night into Saturday and 32 on Saturday night, said Evans, the horticulture program coordinator for Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. Those temperatures will kill plants such as tomatoes, peppers, impatiens, coleus and begonias.

This means lots of work ahead for gardeners who want to bring in tender houseplants or save some produce to ripen indoors.

“It’s time to get things done,” Evans said. “It looks like Wednesday and Thursday day, do any of your last harvesting. Green peppers, mature green tomatoes. Any produce we want to bring in.”

Evans said he wouldn’t wait until Friday to jump into action, not with a temperature of 37 degrees expected Thursday night. “That’s pushing it,” he said.

Evans recommends moving houseplants inside or at least into a garage or shed by Thursday at the latest. That way, you can avoid the rain and wind that is forecast, too.

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Perennials such as rhubarb and asparagus will be fine, he said.

“Our cold crops — spinaches, lettuces, turnips and radishes — they can take it down to the lower temperatures,” he said.

Once you are done harvesting your vegetables, make sure to clear away the remaining foliage in those beds.

“A lot of diseases can overwinter, so it’s good to clean those up,” he said.

Flower beds, however, are different. Evans said you should leave those intact unless a plant has a major problem, such as powdery mildew on peonies. Those should be cut back.

“Everything else, leave that dead foliage standing,” he said. “Birds will use that as shelter and bugs will overwinter there as well.”

Leaves also are starting to fall from trees. Evans said it’s much better to mow them into your lawn instead of bagging them and sending them to the landfill.

Leaves provide valuable nutrients for your soil. A pile in a corner of your yard is a great place for bugs to overwinter, too.

“It’s silly we’re throwing away a natural resource,” Evans said. “This fall, mow those leaves back into the ground.”

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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