Gardening: Last Frost Date…Maybe

Bed C Hunkered Down Under Cover

We live in Planting Zone 5. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac the last frost of the winter/spring should be around May 5 and the first frost of fall/winter should be around October 1. We have an outdoor growing season of 148 days.

148 days. A little over 40% of the year can be devoted to outdoor gardening where we live. Other sources list slightly more conservative dates. One seed company to remain unnamed recommends planting and transferring frost sensitive plants after May 14.

It just goes to show you. Don’t believe everything…or is it anything that you read on the InterWeb. Frost was predicted to be behind us by Mother’s Day (May 5). It would seem that Mother Nature is not as nice as my mom.

Today is May 10. There is a frost warning out for 1:30 am to 8:00 am Tuesday May 11. A quick glance at my Weather Bug app shows that the temperatures during that time frame should be:

1:00 am 37 degrees

2:00 am to 4:00 36 degrees

5:00 am to 7:00 am 34 degrees

8:00 am 39 degrees

Our only bedded crop at risk are the tomatoes in Bed C. They should not be exposed to temperatures under 32 degrees. We have been pushing that temperature with some frequency the last week, with tonight and tomorrow night to be last (we hope) for the season.

Research was needed. The MIGardner is in Zone 5 too, so his YouTube Channel is my first go to. (Keep in mind that it was with his advice that we chose to plant what is outside now, including tomatoes.) He recommends covering the plants with sheets to protect against frost, but not freeze. Last week there were two nights that got into the 30s over night, we did cover with sheets on those nights.

Over the weekend, however, we were talking to a successful local gardener about a different topic. Beth is a medical professional who gets frequent calls soliciting medical advice. His wife was not feeling well and called for advice. Once I was sure that the medical malady was under control I asked Beth to get advice for our tomatoes in the predicted cold weather. Call it a Payment In Kind.

The answer was to use tarpaulin to retain as much heat as possible from the bed and plants overnight. The cover photo shows our answer to the potential frost issue. We are protecting in layers. We used four each 5 gallon buckets as props. Placed a single bed sized fitted sheet over the buckets and onto the posts of the bed. Covered the sheet with a tarp and secured it to the side of the bed with water ski tow rope.

Prolonged exposure to cold can result in damaged fruit on the tomato. If the plants look like they have become unhealthy we have a plan B. We raised a dozen tomato seedlings indoors. The five plants in Bed C can be easily replaced. In fact there are two seedlings in the house that look far superior to the ones we planted two weekends ago in Bed C.

Peter Sellers played a character named Chance in the movie “Being There”. Chance was a Washington DC gardener. One of my favorite quotes from his character is: “As long as the roots are not severed. All is good in the garden.”

Well, they are not…so…All is good in the garden.


Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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