Sow There!: Planting put on hold by the big, bad freeze 3-2-18

Squirrels did not grab them all. Acorns abound at my mother's squirrel-less yard, and will soon become teaching tools for kindergartners.
Squirrels did not grab them all. Acorns abound at my mother’s squirrel-less yard, and will soon become teaching tools for kindergartners. Photo by Heather Hacking

The daily plant protection patrol continues. I’m lucky because I have a window of daylight between student-teaching and my night classes. I can uncover my outdoor tender plants in the morning when I leave for school, then cover them again before darkness creeps in.

Plants may still die, but at least I will know I tried.

This has been a wacky year. Late last spring I planted Vinca rosea — a stalwart summer bloomer. In a normal year, the first frost would have arrived in the late fall and the Vinca would have looked like boiled spinach. The plant survives and I’m trying to see if it will bloom again this spring. Every morning I uncover the plants. Every evening I cover it again. It’s interesting when we watch ourselves fighting probably lost causes, like hoping to lose that last five pounds or finding a long lost cat. Yet, gardeners like a challenge.

Thankfully, the cool-season spinach and kale, planted last fall and again this month, should fare well through the shivers. Good thing, because I saw a lot of people at the Saturday farmers market buying lettuce and spinach sprouts from Sherri Scott. Sherri has the beautiful multi-tiered cart filled with six packs of new plants for just a few dollars. If you’re uncertain about planting by seed, buying lettuce and other winter/early-spring greens is a safer bet. You can spend $1.75 or more on a packet of seeds, then totally botch the timing and end up with bare spots in your garden. When you buy a six pack of plants you save yourself from feeling inadequate.

I’m not much of a salad-fixer. I grow spinach, lettuce and kale, but it seldom makes it to the colander. I’m much more likely to fill up on fiber by using one hand to shove spinach into my mouth, and the other hand to hold the hose. This keeps me away from the calories of salad dressing.


During this recent frost, I have not bothered to cover the spinach and kale. I did some research in 2016 and learned that kale can survive to temperatures as low as 10 degrees (Fahrenheit). Spinach will bounce back after 20 degree temps, and lettuce can stand it cool to 25. If the temperatures dip to less than 20 degrees, I know where to find Sherri Scott at the farmers market.


A few of you may remember my seed-planting lesson I tried with third graders last semester. The students planted sugar snap seeds, with joy, but about half of the seeds did not sprout. I’ll blame the heat wave last fall, but there was also some “operator error” involved on my part.

Amazingly, some of the seeds thrived.

My thoughtful (amazing, gifted, gracious) former mentor teacher (Diane Clark) sent me a video clip.

“Miss Hacking,” the third grader reported in the video, “I just wanted to tell you that my snow peas fully grew. There’s beans on them and everything. Thank you for giving me them.”

That pretty much made up for every mistake I could have made.


In a few weeks, I’ll teach my very important lesson, which helps decide whether I get to really become a teacher. My new (amazing, gifted, gracious) mentor teacher has allowed me to choose a reading comprehension lesson about the life cycle of oak trees. I am not making this stuff up. It’s right there in the lesson sequence.

When I saw the lesson I immediately got cracking. Where could I get acorns in February? I don’t know about you, but the squirrels bury or gobble any nuts within a four-block radius of my house.

Luckily, someone must have poisoned the squirrels in my mother’s neighborhood in Redding. She was able to walk out her back door and gather a big bag of acorns.

“I hope you aren’t disappointed,” my mother apologized. “But some of the acorns have already started to sprout.”

I was thrilled. Page 7 of our big book has pictures of sprouted acorns. My kindergarten students will be able to hold them in their hands!

Hoping to have more fun, I placed some of those sugar snap pea seeds in a little bowl with a paper towel and a few drops of water. You guessed it. They sprouted. My plan is to place them in plastic bags filled with soil and tape them to a sunny windowsill, if this cold snap goes away. Who knows. Maybe we’ll even send those acorns home with children and hope for a video report when my current kindergartners start first grade.

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