Gardening, much of it premature, is in full-tilt right now, as people yearn for summer days and nights surrounded by sunshine and flowers. But this is the cruel time, as we may be hasty in putting out annuals, only to have them damaged, buds destroyed or plants killed by freezing nights or May snowfalls.
So what can we do now with the snow hopefully in our rearview mirror, but the very real threat of frost continues through the end of May? Speaking from personal impatience, I’ve already ignored the experts and put tender plants such as wave petunias in the ground. And three times I’ve put sheets over my plants.
What do the experts advise? The website Gardening Know-how has some suggestions:
If you have put plants out already, Google them and read how they react to cold snaps. “Different plants freeze and die at different temperatures,” according to the site.
“If you are only expecting a light freeze, you may be able to protect plants in a freeze simply by covering them with a sheet or a blanket. This acts like insulation, keeping warm air from the ground around the plant. The warmth may be enough to keep a plant from freezing during a short cold snap.”
Something I haven’t done is put plastic over the sheets, which is what some gardeners advise. This helps keep the warmth in, providing even more protection.
We can at least be thankful that by this time of year, our frosts are usually only one or two days in a row. So we are permanently covering our plants in sheets and blankets. But if your plant does seem to die because of the cold, remember you might still be able to save the roots. You need to mulch around the roots with mulch or hay.
Some gardeners also place jugs of warm water in the mulch. I’m not sure about that. To me, it seems the water would freeze at some point, making the situation worse. Instead, I love the idea of stringing Christmas lights around the plant to add warmth.
In Northeast Ohio, we will pass the frost danger around Memorial Day. That always seemed appropriate to me as that is the actual start of summer. This Memorial Day will be different than in years past. It really will seem like the start of freedom. It already feels like 2021 is a year of rebirth and growth. I know that’s how it feels to me.
Let’s make sure our plants and flowers feel that rebirth. Grab the sheets and blankets. We all need a little extra protection now and then.
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