Archive for frost

Frost

Posted in gardening with tags , , , on April 24, 2012 by planthoarder

It’s no surprise there’s frost again. Our average last frost is in mid-May. People sometimes ask me whether a particular plant will survive the frost. My unsatisfying answer? It all depends. A plant can be perfectly hardy over the winter, but can be hit back hard after it starts growing. Sometimes it’s as fussy as the degree to which it’s grown. Remember my yellow fairy bells? The long shoots that had drooping bells were devastated by frost. The short upright shoots just springing from the ground are fine.

Sometimes you lose the fruit, sometimes the flowers, and sometimes the leaves. Some plant’s appearance can absolutely shock you. My peony shoots look like the McDonald’s arches most mornings lately, but later in the day they continue their reach for the sky. Whatever you do, don’t dig up and dispose of a perennial plant, especially a shrub or tree, just because it’s lost all its leaves to frost.¬† Where there are roots, there can still be life.

Today I’ve posted imperfect photos hoping you can see the beauty despite the imperfection. Faithful readers have been kind enough to compliment my snapshots, so I posted a page (Snapshot Dilletante) on my homepage offering my thoughts on flower photography. I hope you feel inspired to take some pictures in your garden. If we can capture a tiny glimpse of the beauty of nature, we’ll have done well.

Shards of Frost

Posted in gardening with tags , , , , on April 13, 2012 by planthoarder

This spring is so nerve-wracking with frost threatening the past couple of nights, especially with all the warm weather tempting flowers to put out tender buds. Thankfully, the magnolias¬† finished blooming before the frost set in. The veggies in the unheated greenhouse escaped unscathed, but just barely. The next few nights are predicted to be much warmer, so the tomato plants are headed out into the greenhouse this morning. They are very soft from being grown under fluorescent lights so they need some stress, but not too much of a chill, to toughen them up before they go out into the garden in a few weeks. If the nights get too cold again, they’ll be whisked back into the warmth of the house.

It’s been a crazy weather roller coaster, and frankly I get motion sick. At least that’s the feeling I have knowing that the frost came just as the first year of Asian pear blossoms were finishing. Will there be any fruit? I know the rhubarb won’t let me down. The stalks are about 8″ (20 cm) now, I was hoping they’d be at least 10″ (25cm) before I began harvesting. I didn’t grow up with rhubarb. How do you know when to start picking them? Does size matter? I’m more than ready for some rhubarb kuchen so break it to me gently if I have to wait.

With a whole summer full of flowers ahead, I really shouldn’t whine about the few I may have lost to frost or the need to wait for my rhubarb. The peonies enjoy the cooler weather and there are early spring wildflowers even now ready to bloom. As the last shards of frost melt away with the warmth of the sun, we can only appreciate the beauty and the bounty that surrounds us and anticipate so much more to come.

The Enduring Optimism of a Gardener

Posted in gardening with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by planthoarder

We can’t help it, can we?¬† Every spring someone should tie us to the mast so we don’t succumb to nature’s siren song, buying one more plant, one more seed packet offering something delicious for the eyes, nose, or taste buds. It doesn’t matter how hard it will be to find the time to prepare the bed, or a spot to squeeze our precious new flower. It doesn’t matter that last year the deer ate our strawberries, leaves and all, just as they were starting to ripen, or that the slugs turned pretty leaves to Swiss cheese. This year…ah, this year…

This year spring has come early, or maybe it’s summer. Should we try to plant lettuce, or will it bolt too soon? Should we simply wait until fall’s cooler temperatures for the plants we would normally plant in spring? Those warm days are being followed by frost warnings. The magnolia blooms are just daring Jack Frost to turn their pretty pink to brown. So far we’ve been lucky indeed.

The greenhouse has been open wide nearly every day since the brassica seedlings were put in, and some days they had to sit out in the shade, because the greenhouse was just too hot for the early vegetables. My father is wisely restraining himself from starting his tomato seedlings, but I finally succumbed. I even bought seed for a slightly longer season watermelon. I know, I know, an early start doesn’t mean winter won’t sneak up on us early as well, but to be a gardener is to be optimistic. How else could we believe that despite the hungry crowd waiting in the wings to take our place at the table, we’ll be the ones to reap what we’ve sown?

This year I’m finally trying to grow a dry bean I had given up on. It takes a longer season to mature than we have here, so hope has been hard to find. The seed is eight years old, quite geriatric for bean seed, but it won’t get better for waiting so this is the year. My expectations are low, but a germ of hope remains. What can I say? I’m a gardener.