Spring made its arrival Thursday with a grand entrance. The weather was perfect, with sunshine aplenty. However, nearly everyone in the area knows that the last frost of the season hasn’t yet played out.
Gardeners who have already taken advantage of the warmer temperatures to prepare their gardens and have transplanted seedlings to the ground might want to heed the advice of gardening experts who warn that an early-spring frost is as predictable as death and taxes.
“Luckily, protecting plants from cold damage can be accomplished in a variety of quick and easy ways,” writes Jennifer Manning on the website Learn 2 Grow. “The key is to have your plants covered during the hours when frost develops. This critical period is from late night to early morning, when moisture on the plants can freeze. A good rule of thumb is to cover plants by 8 p.m. the night before a forecasted frost and uncover them by 8 a.m. the next morning.”
Manning notes that plants affected by frost will show noticeable damage within a few days. Often, new growth appears within a week or two, but more frequently, the plant is too damaged to bounce back and starting at square one is necessary.
Among ways to protect plants that are already sprouting – whether they are bulbs that have come up and are just peeking through the ground or plants that have recently been planted – is to cover them with buckets or old bed linens. Buckets – or spare flower pots – should be large enough to cover the plant without crowding it. Same thing for the bed linen – be sure it is placed loosely enough over the plants that they aren’t crushed. Secure the bedding with stakes or large rocks around the edges to keep a whipping wind from blowing it off of the plants.
As anyone who has any experience with spring gardening knows, the last frost of the season in the area typically comes around the time that the Masters is being played. For this year, that means April 10-13. The Victory Seed Company predicts that this year’s last spring frost will be around April 15.
According to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, it is relatively safe to put plants in the ground any time after March 20. However, be aware that a late-spring frost may occur.