“70 degrees on Monday, 40 degrees on Wednesday, thunderstorms on Friday, snow on Sunday.” – Machon Ross
If you garden in Ohio or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter you are very aware of temperature fluctuations. What you may not be aware of is how to combat them.
Three weeks ago the weather in my neighborhood was perfect. When I say perfect I mean 60 degrees and sunny. For me it meant I could begin to put out my cold weather crops. Being too excited I’m sure I began to harden off my cabbage, collards, lettuce, and peas. I also put out my potatoes. I watched the weather reports and although it was the beginning of April I got antsy. The latest frost in my zone (Zone 6A) was May 11th last year. I had written this date down and planted seedlings accordingly, but I still got antsy. I couldn’t resist so against my better judgment outside my plants went.
If you all are reading this, you know that we just went through a freak snow storm. Yes, April 20th a freak snow storm. Because I live in Ohio I don’t call it a freak storm. I call it simply living in Ohio. The issue was there became a possibility that I would lose everything I planted. Yes I knew this going in and I knew I could survive the frost or snow, but I still did what I could to save the plants. Here are a few things I did that actually saved my plants during this “freak” storm. I didn’t want to post any ideas until I was sure they would work. My advice is to get ready. I live in Ohio. This will happen again.
The first thing I did was thoroughly water all my plants. I know, this seems crazy. When I heard it I thought “why water?” I figured this would freeze my plants sooner. Truth is that is not true. I follow the MIGardener and this was his suggestion. The theory is the energy that would be used to freeze your plants goes first into freezing the water. If your plants are watered well enough the water closest to your plant will never freeze. Theory or not I can tell you it worked.
Second thing you must do is cover your plants. I used a variety of things. I covered with row covers, heavy blankets, and pieces of fabric. Everything worked. The blankets works best, but they were heavy and caused some leaf breakage. The row covers and fabric are very light so make sure you anchor them down or they will be in your neighbors yard. The tip with these items if if you get snow or sleet you must get that off of the covers as soon as possible. The extra weight is not good for the plants.
Third I covered pots with larger pots. Since all of the garden is not planted yet I had several empty pots. I used those to cover smaller pots. I also had several ten gallon fabric pots that I used to cover plants. This was actually the best system, but the most time consuming to set up.
The last step for me was to uncover everything when the sun came out. Yes the sun can get through the row covers, but I needed to get all the snow and sleet off. I also wanted to make sure my plants were getting some full sun after the trauma they had just gone through. If you cover smaller plants with plastic totes of mile jugs this is also another step you can avoid. The method you use will be 100% determined by the size of your garden.
These are just three hacks that saved my plants. I’m actually going to head to the store this weekend and get myself some PVC pipe to create a better row cover system. My garden is not large, but large enough where I know I will need some type of protection. After all, it’s April. I still have several weeks before I am anywhere near past the threat of frost.
Below are a few of my plants that survived. You can see snow on the first set. The row covers blew off and this was the result. I was sure I would lose some plants during this storm. I’m happy to report not one plant was lost in Unicorn Crossing during this storm. One storm down, many more to come.