Protect those baby plants 

from Spring weather damage


   You just could not wait any longer; you just had to plants some flower and garden plants. The weather was warm and beautiful but now, the forecast says next week will see yet another freeze or a thunder storm producing hail big enough to flatten the garden. What to do. 

   For the past month, I have been saving gallon jugs and 2 liter jugs. Many springs seasons have no late damaging freezes but most will have several. A few hours just about sunrise when the temps drop to freezing. It doesn't last long and then sunshine is warming air and soil. Hail storms come up suddenly and often you don't have the time to run out and put any cover over the plantlings.  

   The only plants I have out in the ground right now, the last week of March, have been there for a while. The spinach didn't get started early enough and will probably bolt before it makes any large leaves. The honeysuckle has made no flowers yet and last year at this time, it was covered with hundreds of blooms. Almost no early rains this  year. The desert willow and the trumpet vine won't wake up until late in spring, just about the time the mesquite trees leaf out.  

   The spinach plants stand up well to any freezes but they are also on the south side of the house and well protected. Our greatest danger here is the wind damage. It will blow every day from March through June or August. Unless windbreak is provided, your tender plantlings will  flattened, killed quickly. In our area, the protected gardens are on the east or south side of buildings. I have a collection of small pieces of scrap corrugated metal and fiberglass, appropriate boards which can be put quickly into use. Years ago, we bought a bunch of baby trees from the Soil Conservation Program. They had a great price on  coryply tubes that were to protect trees from bunnies and the weather. That was about 8 years ago and they are still holding up well. A good investment. 

   I've seen ads for caps to cover plants that look great until I get to the price. If you are trying to look cool and impress your friends and neighbors, they are okay. It's not easy to store so much stuff and have it handy when you need it again next spring. If the plant in danger has protection from wind, it is fairly easy to cover it all with a big upside down cooking pot. I use all the gallon and 2 liter jugs, cutting off the bottom where it can easily be placed over the smaller plants. I have known gardeners that kept heavy duty Army surplus blankets to throw over their plant covers. What you  use depends on what you have on hand. Big, empty flower pots are good covers, empty mop bucket, empty tubs, boxes can all do the job and then go back to their normal life. I've heard of filling empty space around the plants with bubble wrap but I've never had any on hand. Two years ago we had three hard freezes, late after I'd set out the tomatoes. I used leaves around the plants before putting on an empty tub for protection. It kept them too wet and was not a good thing because of the rain.

   Some freezes sneak in with no warning from a forecaster and you can't do much about those. You can get an outdoor thermometer, keep an eye on the temperature and hope to run out and cover your babies if necessary. You just do the best you can. The plants that cannot be planted until the soil has warmed must be saved and planted when it is warmer.