Monday, May 16, 2011

But It's May!

Valerian's sweetly fragrant flowers. A sure sign it's May.
Last night was a hold-my-breath-and-hope-for-the-best night.
I checked the weather report right before turning in and found that they had lowered the anticipated low by 2 degrees and warned of "patchy frost."
What? It is the middle of May!
My tomatoes! My peppers!
The tomatoes were planted in late April, shortly after our average last frost date. I expected it to be cool for a while, so covered them with a "frost blanket," an extra heavy row cover. I would have waited to plant them if I would have known the temperature was going to drop into the mid- to upper 30s a couple of nights later.
Old-fashioned iris, with a fragrance like the first breath of fresh air.
The tomatoes survived the brush with a "patchy frost," but many have spotted leaves. I don't know whether it is disease or an expression of unhappiness about the weather. They keep growing, though. So I will dose them with  fish emulsion, then spray with an organic fungicide, to see if that gets rid of the spots.
Early last week, I figured the weather was safe enough to plant the peppers.
It was just after 9 p.m. last night when I saw the caution for "patchy frost." I was tired after serving tofu chili, roasted carrots and asparagus, and spinach salad to my family, topping it with flourless chocolate cake in belated honor of Ivy's 3rd birthday; then watching presents being unwrapped, taking the said 3-year-old down to the pond to throw in rocks and then sliding down the slipper slide.
So I did not go out and cover the tender plants. I have extra peppers, I rationalized. If they were lost to frost, I could replace some of them. As for the tomatoes... I could probably find some nice heirloom plants at the farmer's market. The eggplants are still safe on the front porch.
This morning the temperature fell to only 39 before the sun popped over the trees, not exactly happy pepper weather, but not pepper-frosting weather. The gamble was won.
Juniper berries are swelling.
While the middle of April is our average last frost date -- when we usually see the last frost -- the middle of May is our "frost free date," the point at which we can actually feel certain we'll have no more frosts. I remember one year, though, when they warned of possible frost during Memorial Day weekend at the end of May.
The forecast for this week looks more promising, with temperatures in the 70s and thunderstorms rolling in during the latter part of the week. We need both warmer temps and some good rain. I planted lots of seeds last week just before a "rain" that gave us only 0.15 of an inch. Not enough! We've got new trees and blueberry bushes, as well as newly planted peppers, that need plenty of moisture.
Hoping we're finally in late spring, I will plant out the eggplants today or tomorrow. The garden is always a gamble. If we don't get an extra late frost, we could get hail. Or drought. Or too much rain.
You've got to roll the dice sometime, and just hope you don't lose everything.

1 comment:

The Barefoot Crofter said...

Good call! It does get a bit wearing at this time of year to keep moving stuff indoors, or running out with the fleece. Because of where we are, we don't get late or early frosts, but oh that wind....