How to help your garden make it through spring chill

Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 04/06, 2016 at 12:45 PM

How to help your garden make it through spring chill

Frost on a winter savory plant.

While the calendar says it’s April, the weather seems to think it’s February. With low temperatures in the teens and 20s this morning, it may have looked like spring with all the daffodils and green grass, but it felt like winter. It’s times like this that test the patience of a Central Pennsylvania gardener.

The lesson learned here was simple; even if it’s warm in March, that doesn’t mean it can’t get really cold in April. And it’s this reality that really needs to be taken into account when starting a food garden in our area.

In my years of experience gardening in these parts, I’ve picked up a few ideas and tips on how to get through the gardening purgatory that is a mid-state spring. Here’s some things to keep in mind to guide your garden through this challenging time: 

- Many things will be okay: Many perennial herbs, like parsley, marjoram, thyme, etc. will just shrug off the freeze and recover nicely. Do some research into what you have, so you’re not wasting time protecting things that don’t need protected.

- Some things won’t make it, and you can’t do much about it: For example, if you have a mature peach tree and it had blossoms last week, you’re probably not going to have a great year, and may get shut out entirely. Utah State has this helpful guide on what stage of blossoms can survive what temperature (generally, the earlier the stage of blossoming, the lower the temperature it can take). Also, if you tried to plant anything that’s not cold hardy, covering them during a hard freeze generally will not help.

- Use this time to get caught up on other things: Start some seeds inside…there’s still time to start tomato and pepper seeds, for example. Go out and do some final prep to your garden and have it ready to plant. Do other yard tasks like cleaning up branches, etc. Organize all your gardening stuff so you’re not wasting an hour trying to find your favorite hand tool on planting day.

- Pay attention to the weather forecast, including long-range forecasts: While it’s going to be milder today and tomorrow, Friday into the weekend looks like a repeat of the last few days. So, will need to hold off. Look at 7-day and even 6-10 day forecasts to get an idea of what to expect. While pinpoint accuracy can’t be expected, it can give you an idea if the general trend is toward warmth or more chill.

- Most of all, be patient: It will eventually warm up and we won’t have anymore hard freezes. It has to. If it doesn’t, well, your garden will be the last thing to worry about…

Tags: gardening | spring |

{name} Author: Jamie Oberdick

Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA

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