Planting your garden after the first tease of warm weather can be risky. You may have learned this the hard way Tuesday night. Hail is no stranger to the April landscape. However, the pounding of rain on the pavement was indeed a surprise.
I heard about the tornado warning, checked an online weather website, and determined the big red dot of the storm was north of my location.
When I was a reporter, I wrote many stories about people driving their cars through “just a few inches of water,” and ending up in the passenger seat of a tow truck.
I waited it out.
I have a shade triangle hanging over a patio in my yard. When I returned home, the all-weather fabric was drooping like a rhinoceros sleeping in a hammock.
Hail and privet berries are not a pretty sight.
Tiny ice balls also filled my potted plants and the once-delicate freesia flowers were pressed indelicately into the gravel.
Sure, we can write a long list of things we would have done if we had known:
• Picked all of the freesia flowers
• unclogged the drains in the alley
• covered the lettuce seedlings
• driven out of the parking lot while it was still dry
• heeded the tornado warning.
Of course, there’s no use in complaining. We still have many weeks to put more seeds in the ground. We’ll be growing all summer and we’ll have water in our wells.
Something about a storm draws me close to doing something stupid. When the pounding of the rain really picked up momentum, I wanted to race outside and watch for funnel clouds. I know it’s stupid to stand in water when there’s lightening above, but I wish that I could. I like that feeling of my hair standing on end and the tingle on my skin.
Instead, I had to stand by a window and remember I am a sane, responsible woman who is needed to shepherd school children.
Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but hear the birds — geese was my guess — squawking over my roofline. They had the good sense to fly elsewhere, long before I received a tornado notice on my cellphone.
Another reason to plant when reliable warm weather has arrived is that plants don’t always appreciate being tortured. I recall a conversation with Jerry Mendon about tomatoes. He said that people are often eager to get their plants in the ground on the first day it is warm enough to wear shorts.
Yet, tomato plants can be stifled with a cold jolt, he said. Better results are found when we wait for the warm weather to stay, then give the plants a stable environment where they will thrive.
Of course, this means buying plants in 1-gallon containers.
Time will tell what this frigid night means to my class’ tomatoes. They are safe in the greenhouse, which was probably as cold as my refrigerator. Last Friday, we transferred a few dozen seedlings into pint-sized milk cartons. We also planted seeds of Tuscan baby kale. Those seeds may have decided to go back to sleep.