Weather Whipsaw


Predictably, when the weather briefly moved into the 70s last week, my phone began to ring. Excited clients were wondering about getting started with planning (certainly) and with planting (certainly not.) A few seemed disappointed by my lack of enthusiasm for getting going. It’s not that I wasn’t looking forward to the new planting season. It’s just that I knew better than to trust Mother Nature. Our freeze-free date in this part of the world is April 20, almost a month away. Our frost-free date is in early May. And just as I suspected, the temperatures are set to plunge over the next five days with overnight lows in the 20s.

So what will happen to the plants that have already started to grow? It depends on the plant. Cold-hardy species like the crocus above have complicated measures within their cells to shift water outside of the cell walls, which prevents the cell itself from bursting. Other less hardy species lack this ability. Fortunately, nothing has really leafed out, but the buds are swelling on most of the deciduous shrubs, and there could be some damage there too, we’ll just have to wait and see. And as gardeners, we do a lot of that — there is only so much we can do especially in years of weird weather fluctuations like this one. But we CAN control our own actions, and that’s really the point of this piece. Go out right now and disconnect that water line you so optimistically turned on last week — before it bursts — and throw a cover over those pots of pansies you just finished planting by the back door, too soon, too soon! And make sure the covers are down on any cold frames or outdoor growing areas you may have. Real spring will soon arrive, never fear. But for now, just sit back and enjoy the last remnants of the winter weather show.


Weather Whipsaw — 3 Comments

  1. It’s always interesting to learn how plants, and we humans, are designed to survive some of the challenges that can beset us. As to timing our actions, the longer I garden the more I see that its more of a pas de deux with nature than a calendar item. Thanks for the guidance!

  2. Michael,

    You have such great visual content–please start an Instagram account as well–and follow Imaging at the Metropolitan @metphotostudio.

    Happy Spring and all best,

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