Stick around a day. It’ll change!
The weather roller coaster continues to whip us around wildly here in Tennessee. Late last week we had some of the most glorious spring weather we’ve seen all season–and today?–SNOW (perhaps). Right now it’s a warm and toasty 39 degrees and the rain is falling steadily. It doesn’t get much more miserable than that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have the rain. It’s always nice to get a little ahead of the game early in the season, just in case we have a whopper of a summer. In addition to cold and rainy, the range of temperatures in the forecast is frustrating at best. I’ve seen anywhere from 24 degrees for the low to a balmy 31–that’s a BIG difference in the gardening world. Thirty-one degrees would hardly faze a plant that was well-established and acclimated to the cold, but 24 is going to freeze-dry newly opened foliage and flowerbuds and may take several weeks to recover from. Tender new growth on plants like hostas may suffer even in a mild frost and 24 will surely freeze them to the ground where they’ll have to start over again from scratch–and they will, but it will take a little time.
What to do?
I’m going to take some precautions. Since I now live on top of a windy hill in the rural countryside (without the warming effects of city concrete and asphalt), all of the hostas that are still in containers are going into the garden shed and storage room. Some of them are looking a little weak this spring anyway and getting frozen is not what they need just now. There are also a few shrubs (also still in containers) that are fully leafed out with very tender new growth. They’ll probably go in, too. The tropicals and other tender plants are still inside anyway, so no worries about those.
For plants that are in the ground, I’ll cover what I can and the rest is on its own. Most things won’t be bothered. I’ll probably turn some 5-gallon buckets over a few of the hostas that are just emerging so the new leaves don’t get burned. I may throw an old sheet or blanket over a couple of other things that for one reason or another I feel the need to protect. Honestly, though, the vast majority of it is just going to have to survive. Tough love. Yes, the new growth on a few things might get nipped and yes, a few plants might have the look of that bag of lettuce that’s been in the crisper drawer for a week too long, but plants are resilient. They’ll survive.
A note of caution: Do NOT cover plants with plastic sheeting in order to “protect” them. Plastic traps moisture and will actually cause more damage to your plants than if you left them uncovered. Even with 5-gallon buckets, I’ll place a small rock or stick under one side just to raise the edge of it slightly off the ground to allow for air circulation. This will keep the frost from settling on the leaves, but won’t trap moisture which will turn the plants into ice cubes.
When this cold snap passes, we’ll trim the dead and be a little kinder to things than we might normally be for a few weeks until they really get growing again, but even if primary growth is frozen, the secondary buds will kick into gear, expand and grow. In a couple of weeks, we’ll never even know there was a late frost. I have to admit, though, that for all of my positivity and optimism, I’m still annoyed. Can we just have one good spring? Is that too much to ask?