Last night the temperature at my mom Peggy’s house was predicted to get down to the low 30’s. That means frost was a real possibility. If you saw her gardens in my post a couple of days ago (Gardening: All in the Family), you know her plants are well underway and many not able to survive a first. So what to do?
Every plant has its own tolerance to cold. Zinnias, Impatiens, Petunias? Forget it, they like it warm. Cold weather vegetables, strawberries, perennials? Maybe leaves and flowers damaged initially, but they’ll be just fine. The seed packet or container tag will give you some insight into what they can tolerate. When in doubt, cover them.
If you know that the plants are likely to be damaged by an overnight frost, you need to cover them with a sheet or blanket. My mom has a whole collections of sheets just for this purpose. By tenting the sheets over the garden, it creates a warm air pocket around the plants. If it’s thought to be colder than a light frost, you can add a a layer of plastic over the blanket to trap even more warm air (never right on the plants). Be sure to remove the coverings first thing in the morning before condensation starts to form on the inside. If still cold enough, the moisture could freeze on the plants and cause harm as well. An actual freeze requires even more elaborate weather protection, or you may just need to sigh and start over.
Then say a little prayer and hope for the best. Peggy’s plants looked good this morning. It did get down to 31°, but warmed up quickly once the sun came up. Hopefully that’s it for the cold weather.
As the snow finally subsided, the temperatures dropped and the winds picked up. We went to sleep with temperatures already below zero and that was to be the high for the day. We were at -18 in the morning and it hasn’t become much better.
So of course I had to go out and try to take a few pictures, but it was honestly so cold I could only snap a few before my fingers became painfully cold. That was enough, back inside to enjoy the sun from the warmth of the house. Watching the TV news, it is obvious that not everyone was able to make it home last night. Many highways and roads became closed from blizzard conditions, black ice is making open roads treacherous and the airports are still a mess. Hopefully this passes soon and everyone is home safely.
Outside this morning, the snow was squeaking under my feet and the sun was shining brilliantly. Snow drifts had formed in the driveway and everything had a smooth, wind blown look to it.
Outside one of the porch windows there was this beautiful frost.
I feel pretty lucky that we’ve squeaked out an extra week or so before the first hard frost has hit the Chicago area. NOAA has issued it’s first freeze watch for the area for tonight, almost a week my after the average date for my area. We might even get some flurries! Chicago is a little difficult to know what will really happen weather-wise at any one spot in the region, since Lake Michigan and other land features create a lot of micro-climates that skew local temperatures and precipitation. Check out this map of Chicagoland’s variations from WGN-TV in average first frost dates.
Even so, I think tonight will be it for the plants. I went around yesterday and took some last pictures of the flowers and harvested the last of the vegetables in preparation. I’m always a little sad this time of year, when the garden still looks so inviting after having finally recovered from the harsh mid -summer conditions. Yet I know it is only a matter of time till it’s over. It’s like the plants want that last hurrah before going to sleep for the winter, or for the annuals, to go out in a blaze of glory.
Final Garden Harvest–having just been in Charleston, I am going to use those green tomatoes! The garden is still in bloom
Some of the trees are showing their colors, but not very uniformly or brilliantly. Some are showing the stress of 2 harsh summers and disease, while others haven’t even begun to change.
It’ll be interesting to see what it al looks like tomorrow. I’m torn as to whether I should bring in that beautiful single rosebud to protect it, or see what happens if I leave it.