We cannot wait for the warmer spring temperatures to get here! The recent cold snap in Arizona brought the temperatures in our garden to below freezing for 5 consecutive days, dropping as low as 19 degrees for two nights. The garden and the citrus were not liking the cold (neither were we!). Even some of our cold-hardy veggies took a hit. We wrapped our citrus with sheets and put incandescent lights inside for warmth. We do this every winter and it works well; all of them survived the frigid temperatures.
We also had to protect the chickens from the cold. The orpingtons have a tall, upright comb which puts them at risk for frostbite. To protect their combs, we coated them with vaseline. They can also be coated with vegetable or mineral oil, just make sure whatever you use is not water based, as that will freeze. We made sure there were no drafts coming into the coop and closed most of the windows, leaving one cracked for ventilation. In some places in the country, it would be necessary to get an electric warmer for their water to prevent a freeze. Our coop stayed warm enough inside so that was not a problem. To keep more warmth inside, you can add extra insulation to the coop or add heat lamps (be careful as this can also be a fire hazard). An easy way to add insulation is by stacking straw bails along the exterior walls.
Now that the cold has moved on, we need to start planning for spring! We have been picking carrots, broccoli, lettuce, and spinach throughout the winter. Unfortunately, it has been too cold for the peas to produce, but we are hoping they will pick up once the temperatures rise. We also harvested lots of eggplant before the cold snap damaged the plants. This spring, we will be planting pole beans, tomatoes, squash, peppers, corn, cantaloupe, eggplant, and herbs. We will be starting the tomato and pepper seeds indoors this week. Seedlings should be started about 6 weeks before the average last frost date for your area. In Phoenix, this ranges from the end of December to the end of February. So if we start them this week, they should be ready to transplant by mid-March when there is no longer a risk for frost. We have found this great guide from the University of Arizona which details when all seeds or transplants should be planted in Maricopa County.