While Santa Fe probably won’t see its first snowfall of the season Friday, meteorologists are forecasting freezing temperatures overnight — a likely repeat of what was expected late Thursday.

“We are going to have a hard freeze,” said Sharon Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

Daytime temperatures were expected to hover around 50 degrees Friday, but after sundown, they could drop to about 28, she said.

Local nursery workers and farmers said they were ready and noted the first freeze of mid-autumn is coming just a few days before it’s usually expected — a point echoed by Sullivan, who said Oct. 14 is the average date of the area’s first freeze.

“We’re gonna be all right,” said Don Bustos, who runs Santa Cruz Farm and Greenhouses near Española.

“We harvested a lot of green chile already, and the red is ready to go,” he said. “We covered all the tomatoes outside, and our greenhouses are buttoned up. Our winter preparation is looking good — it’s pretty much business as usual.”

Crops like arugula, kale, carrots and root vegetables “will go on really well into the fall and next spring” without any problems, Bustos added, while outdoor tomato growing was bound to come to an end this month.

Jimmy Wagner of Wagner’s Farmland Experience in Corrales agreed, saying long-term freezes can hurt crops, but many are able to withstand short-term freezes.

“The winter crops — lettuce and cabbage and all that — won’t hurt a bit,” he said. “It’s normal for this time. Farmers have learned how to deal with this for hundreds of years.”

Still, experts said homeowners should cover outdoor ground plants and bring in hanging baskets on nights when freezes are expected if they want to enjoy a few more weeks of blooms. (Pets should also be sheltered.)

“We’re moving everything that has flowers on it — pansies, violas, chrysanthemums — into heated cover tonight and tomorrow,” said Mark Pennington, owner of Agua Fría Nursery. “We’ll keep them in a couple of days and then move them back out because it’s going to warm up again.”

But, he said, it’s time to move some plants indoors permanently, like geraniums and herbs.

And any vegetables and herbs like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil that have not been harvested will probably be destroyed in the freeze, he said.

Meanwhile, most of the trees in the Santa Fe National Forest are just as ready for the freeze and the approaching winter, said Gennaro Falco, the national forest’s forestry program manager.

“What you may expect to see go away are the annual plants, grasses — the ones more susceptible to a heavy frost,” he said. “Trees go into a dormant period.”

Evergreen trees such as firs and pines withstand freezes by storing and maintaining energy and don’t really change appearance much during winter, Falco said.

That doesn’t mean the freeze won’t impact a fall-color trip to the forest.

“When the yellow aspens get hard frost on them, those leaves are going to be quicker to drop,” he said. “If we get a cold snap that lasts a few days, I think things could come to an end pretty quick here in terms of those fall colors.”

Sullivan said temperatures should start rising again by Sunday with a “slight warming trend continuing into the early part of next week.”

Looking at the next few months, she said the area should expect both above-normal temperatures and an above-normal chance of precipitation.

“But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more freezes in between all that,” Sullivan added.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

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