May 14, 2017

Minor Damage

This time of year can be exceptionally challenging for the Midwestern gardener. It is a time when fragile cold weather crops are transplanted in the garden. And when other seeds are started or poking out of the ground. There is a lot happening that is for sure. Timing can be crucial. Too early and plants can die from frost, too late and with some plants you risk not having enough time to fully fruit before the hot weather hits. The weather likes to play a game of Russian Roulette and it”s anybody guess what the next day”s temperatures will be. One day it may be 70 degrees and sunny, the next, the temperature drops to below freezing and you pray that everything comes out alive. Last week, this is exactly what happened.

We were moving along with great temperatures. Some days in the 60”s, others in the 70”s. And usually it isn‚Äôt the day that gets you, it is the night. But even those were topping 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I noticed on a Monday that Wednesday had a frost advisory in effect. It looked as if the temperature was going to hit 29 degrees at about 4:30 am which could be disastrous for some of my plants. Many of the items outside could survive a frost or two (carrots, asparagus, lettuce, etc…), but the issue was many of my plants had recently flowered and the strawberries were in full bloom. Frost has a tendency to kill blooms and cause your soon to be record breaking harvest, to be a record breaking failure.

Immediate action was required! What we decided to do was purchase some garden fabric to cover the plants that were most at risk. We covered the two lettuce beds, the potato bed, and the strawberry bed.

Covering Strawberries

Honestly, I went to bed that night feeling pretty good about things.

And in reality, when I uncovered everything the next day, things were not perfect, but pretty close to it. The strawberries had zero damage. Same goes for anything in the lettuce beds. The potatoes however had a bit of damage. As you can see, only the tips of some of the leaves were damaged.

Potato Frost Damage

All in all, I highly recommend if you plan to start things early in Zone 5, to purchase some garden fabric to fight the random frosts.

This was great news until I realized things that did not get covered were damaged. Our Concorde Grape (planted a few weeks ago) had some damage, as well as a few of the leaves on the raspberries. I thought the raspberry damage was a bit unusual.

Grape Frost Damage

Raspberry Frost Damage

Since that day we have not had any further frosts and fingers are crossed for it to stay that way.\

On a more positive note. We were able to plant our Three Sisters bed with corn, bean, and squash on the 13th of May. These were directly planted as seeds into the 10x10ft bed.

Prepared 10ft x 10ft Bed

Corn, Bean, and Squash

And finally, the hoard (as I have been calling them lately) of peppers, tomatoes, tomatillo, and ground cherries have now been placed outside to start hardening off for a planting around Memorial Day. They currently spend their days in the shade as they are not ready for the strength of the sun. During the evenings we move them back into the garage where it is warmer. I”ll have more of an update on them at a later time.

The Transplant Hoard

Well that is it for today. If you have any questions about any of the topics above, feel free to post in the comments section.

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About the Author

Geoff has been growing plants and vegetables consistently for the last 6 years and actively experiments with, and writes about, all aspects of gardening.

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