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Dealing with a late-spring frost

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  • Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - 01:42pm


    Wendy S. Delmater

    Status Diamond Member (Offline)

    Joined: Dec 13 2009

    Posts: 1418

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    Dealing with a late-spring frost

Okay, Punxsutawney Phil, there were more weeks of winter than you promised. I planted my seeds when the seed packet said to, after the usual date of the last frost. But there have been hard frosts since the seeds sprouted, and despite my best efforts many of them died.

I may have a longer growing season than some, but sometimes that just means problems in my garden happen earlier. In my area, a hard frost warning in March is unusual, and a late March frost is rare. But we had several this Spring. Many of my seedlings died. This happens to the best of gardeners and farmers. What lessons can we take away from this?

Home-made crop insurance. You did not just buy or save one packet's worth of seeds for that vegetable, did you? Whether it's 3/$1 packets of radish seeds at the "dollar store" or fancy oragnic seeds from a catalog or seeds you saved from last year…you need spares. Extra seeds are like home-made crop insurance. And, guess what? The larger packets at the online seed retailers are not that much more expensive than the smaller ones! Example:  at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, their Early Wonder Tall Top Beets are $2.05 for 5g and $5.50 for 28g. Too many seeds? Remember, most of these will be viable next year, and even the year after that if stored properly. Or you could gift the extras to a neighbor who gardens to strengthen ties in the neighborhood.

I got you covered. Covereing your sprouted plants with mulch or even an old comforter or blanket can insulate them from low temperatures, up to a point. When we heard things would dip below freezing overnight, I shoveled on pine straw mulch, the local equivalent of straw. I shoveled it out the next morning, after things had warmed up, but just left it next to the rasied bed in case I needed it again, soon. And I did. What seedlings we saved from cold weather were directly due to this technique. Last year we used an old comforter, but the principle was the same. Mulch just insulated a larger area. 

Gimme shelters. Your cold frame or greenhouse (or windowsill) might have to work a little later in a year with a longer winter. If you like you can switch to raising seedlings for when, finally the great outdoors is ready for them.

Note: If you're reading this and are not yet a member of Peak Prosperity's Agriculture & Permaculture Group, please consider joining it now. It's where our active community of gardening enthusiasts share information, insights and knowledgable daily discussion to help you succeed in growing your own food. Simply go here and click the "Join Today" button.

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