There’s a reason why the last frost date in Michigan (the reasonable
date on which you can plant outside in the spring without worrying about
frost harming your plants) has been moved to May 18.
Last night (May 12/13) we had a visit from good ole Jack Frost! Pretty
strange considering the old Last Frost Date was May 10 and we’ve been
having beautifully warm weather before this sudden cold snap. Then
again, this is Michigan, and it wouldn’t be spring if you didn’t have to
trade your flip flops for the winter coat all in the same week at least
I’m not sure if you would call it impatience or optimism, but it was
sooo warm last week that I couldn’t resist the urge to plant out at
least one warm-weather crop. My original plan was to transplant just
three golden zucchini plants… I planted six. Here’s what I did to keep
these little guys cozy over the very cold weekend (and right through
last night’s frost).
On Friday afternoon I covered the raised bed with a plastic row
cover. The row cover is attached with utility clips to hoops made from
PVC pipe. The zucchini share a bed with radishes which actually prefer
the cold weather. Fortunately these are the Rat’s Tail radishes which
I’m growing not for the root but for the edible seed pods. The row cover
will warm them up substantially in sunny conditions, causing them to
bolt (grow faster and produce a flower). Bolting is bad for regular
radishes because it alters the taste and texture of the root, but in the
case of these radishes, a little extra heat will just move the
I-want-seed-pods process along a smidge faster.
This row cover was put in place to protect golden zucchini plants from May frost.
In theory, a row cover should be enough to keep my precious golden
zucchini plants from being frost-bitten. But since I got a little
overzealous and planted out six instead of three, I decided to bring in
some insurance. Enter the cloche (pronounced “klohsh”). A cloche is a
tool that originated in France to keep plants from being harmed by frost
and to force their early growth. The cloche is typically bell shaped
and made from glass. Here’s a picture of a classic cloche.
Click on the image for a DIY cloche idea.
I’m not fancy enough to have beautiful French cloches like the one above so I used my own micro-farm-style cloches: mason jars.
The zucchini plants get double frost protection – glass cloches made from mason jars and a plastic row cover.
The upside down jars keep the plants warm and safe from frost.
The zucchini plants were covered from late on Friday afternoon all
the way through this morning (Monday). When I first placed them over the
plants, it was chilly and windy but the sun was shining, and they
looked like like the picture above. When I retrieved the cloches this
morning, the plants looked like this:
The “after” shot is pretty much the same as the “before”!
Despite a smidge of mud on one leaf, this plant
(just like the others) looks great!
So based on my experience, the combination of row cover and cloche worked beautifully! My zucchini plants are ready for spring!
Other Plants in the Garden
Everything else that is planted out in the garden is frost tolerant –
lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, peas, carrots (teeny tiny seedlings),
beets (just now coming up), onions, strawberries and a few other things
I can’t think to name right now. There is one sad exception: The potato
Since potatoes are planted out so early, my novice-farmer brain
assumed that they are frost tolerant. But as I was coming in from the
garden this morning I noticed that many of the leaves looked very frost
bitten and dark. What a giant bummer because they have been coming up SO
nicely (about 4 to 6 inches each)! One of the garden tasks I was
planning for this afternoon was hilling potatoes. After doing some quick
research it appears that I just need to trim the dead/damaged leaves
and the plants should continue to grow just fine. Next year I’ll throw a
row cover over these too!
Here are the potato plants before last night’s frost. They don’t look as cheerful this morning…
The only thing planted in the Fenceline garden right now is turnips…
or perhaps I should say “was” turnips. These are frost-tolerant and were
coming along nicely… until one or two certain four-legged creatures who
are otherwise quite lovable dug half of them up. Not. Happy. Time to get that electric fence fixed…
The other heat-loving plants have been hiding out in the greenhouse
snuggled together on the shelves near the heater which came back into
action for the weekend. After today the heater should be going into
hibernation until fall.
Also the blueberry bushes are starting to blossom! This is exciting
but also a bit sad because I was planning to transplant them to their
permanent home before they blossomed. (They are currently in large pots
inside the garden fence.) I suppose that task will now have to wait
until fall, which is ok, because I’m still not sure where I want to put
If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.
Did you have any frost issues in your garden? Is anyone out there going to be adventurous and transplant heat-loving plants before the actual last frost date? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!
Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.
Posted by Katie
@ 01:01 PM EDT