It’s too late to save dead plants, but we can still talk about frost.
If you were careful and hauled all your tender plants into the garage before the very cold nights — bravo.
I personally do not have a garage. What I have now is a jungle in my living room. My house was already fairly cluttered. Now my exercise routine includes a series of sidesteps to avoid knocking over potted plants between the couch and the kitchen.
One night I tried to watch a DVD and had to rearrange my greenery before indulging in televised, mindless drivel.
I’m mad at myself because I didn’t take necessary steps to avoid plant pain. I know better. My prized mystery plant with the enormous leaves is in a pot so large I had hoped I could simply cover it with a sheet and call it good. The next night I hauled the damaged goods indoors. This way I could sit and watch mindless drivel and feel really badly about the 15-gallon plant two feet from my feet.
When the sun shines again, you may be tempted to run out and lop off the blackened leaves. In most cases, this would be a mistake. Open wounds on the plant could lead to more damage. Plus, it might remain cold or get cold again. Damaged leaves can help protect the roots and crown of the plant, the University of California Cooperative Extension advises, http://sacmg.ucanr.edu/Chilling_injury.
Unless the leaves could rot, wait until early spring. This way you’ll have a better view of where the plant is sprouting new growth. You might be surprised that the plant is able to regain a healthy stature with just a few snips here and there.
In the meantime, keep your plants watered well. A double whammy would be dehydration on top of cold damage. Another tip is to move potted plants to near the house. They’ll receive a bit of shelter from the cold, wind and your guilt-ridden glances. An added bonus is that if the plant dies, it will be away from the walk from the car to your doorstep.
Planting season soon
The beauty of living things is that there is always another life cycle.
A frost is a good time to track down the date of last frost for seeds. Many packets will provide information on how soon before date of last frost that seeds can be planted indoors. Many flowers, for example, will state 8-12 weeks before last frost if planting indoors.
We tend to be safe from frost by early April. However, our weather is never “typical,” so prepare to watch the weather when you place plants outdoors.
A greenhouse or a cold frame is ideal for planting a large number of seedlings now or after you return your potted plants to the outdoors.
My school has a greenhouse. I daydreamed about using it to plant some vegetables and flowers for my yard. However, the greenhouse is quickly filling up with tomatoes planted with the children.
For less than $40 you can buy a heating mat for sprouting seedlings indoors. I have one in the shed. This worked well in the past, but it’s too cold to start looking around in the shed.
When I was shopping for multi-colored pencils to give my students for Valentine’s Day, I was subconsciously lured into the garden section of a big-box store. Four-inch tall plants for lettuce, spinach and other cold season crops are now on sale. This seems like a logical cure for the heartache of losing plants to Jack Frost.
Better yet, wander down to the farmers market this Saturday. Some nice plant-grower will help cure your dead plant blues.