Dodging the Frost Bullet
Last week Mother Nature played a cruel but not an unusual trick on gardeners. After being unseasonably warm for several days, the temperture dropped way down in to the mid-20’s for two nights in a row. Of course, the Old Fashion Lilacs were opening that seems to be when we are always hit with a surprising bit of cold. That is one reason why I have switched to growing Korean Lilacs and later blooming varieties.
I have learned many very expensive lessons in my 40 plus years of gardening, but #1 is not to plant out any thing too early. It is always so tempting when the stores are full of beautiful spring annuals and the weather has been teasingly warm. But after “freezing “ so many new plants I finally caught on …do not try to fool Mother Nature.
So here is the plan I try to stick too…
#1 I do fulfill the urge to plant early some spring color by filling my pots with beautiful pansies, violas, snapdragons, dianthus and other cold tolerant spring beauties. * See list at the end of the blog.
#2 I plant early spring veggies in grow pots close to the house. This area warms up so quickly and is a great microclimate. My husband and I really enjoy the fresh greens after a long cold winter and they are cold hearted customers.
#3 As I am in the process of developing new spaces and gardens, I am trying to stick to planting natives. It seems like perhaps they have a built in timer that resets with adverse weather.
#4 If a frost has covered my plants within an area that I can easily spray, I will get up before sunrise and spray the frost off.
#5 Lastly, I will cover my plants. This has become an exercise know as showing the neighbors my wide variety of bed sheets. Please use sheets not plastic ! I prop the sheets up inside and put the cover all the way to the ground to hopefully trap some of the warmth in the ground.
I pushed my luck last week and did not do any of the above and I won. Most of the plantings were close to the house and survived. I believe the blanket of snow helped insulate the plants the first night and then we had a cloud cover that kept the temps a little higher the next day. The only victims were my Nasturtiums and they probably should not have been out side anyway. Since I have not been gardening here long, I had not planted out strawberries or any tender fruit.
I can’t say we are past the possibility of getting a drop below 30 degrees, after all I was in a zone warmer in Kentucky and did not plant out until after Derby Day. (Traditionally the first Saturday in May) I believe I am Zone 6A here in Southern Indiana.
So I am erring on the side of caution. May 15th is the magic date I am focusing on as my safe day to plant outside. Until then I will make full use of my screened -in porch and my small greenhouse. May 15th is by the way my dad’s birthday so I will take that as a sign from above.
* Some Cold Tolerant Annuals I trust for Early Planting:
Snapdragons, Pansies, Violas, Calendulas, Sweet Peas, Larkspur, Dianthus, Sweet alyssum and Forget me nots,
I also really enjoy some of the early Spring Ephemerals such as Virginia Bluebells, Celandine Wood poppies, Brunneras, Money Plant, Hellebores and the many wild flowers.