2018 Freeze: to cover or not to cover

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For the 2018 freeze tonight, to cover or not to cover is the question. The forecasted low for Guthrie, Oklahoma, tomorrow morning is 24°F according to Oklahoma’s Mesonet. The state of the rest of the state isn’t much better. We’ve already had two 32°F lows this week which killed off some foliage, but it wasn’t a disaster.

I’ve lamented about tomorrow’s low all week on my Instagram. I’m surprised anyone still follows me.  I keep showing pretty pictures and telling myself and the rest of the world it’s going to be okay, and part of me believes that. Rain began falling about midday.

So, again, to cover or not to cover. My garden is about an acre and a half these days. I’m not worrying about anything near the house. If you decide to cover, whatever you use should either reach the ground so that the heat from the earth–which should be pretty good, it was 70°F yesterday–can rise up to the top of the plant. Or, alternatively, you can cover and string lights in the branches of small trees–anything to raise the temperature.

I used to try to cover everything. Does anyone remember the freeze on May 2, 2010? Here’s where I wrote about the best freeze covers in 2013. I still have those up in the barn, and  I placed them on the potager. I have peas already an inch or so tall so they will need some protection. I also have lettuce, spinach, kale and Swiss chard to protect. I also put down the tops on the cold frames. I had bamboo teepees in them for the sweet peas I planted in there, but I pulled them out and put them on the ground.

Then, there was the freeze on April 13, 2014. I wrote about the garden the day before. Well, the garden looks almost the same now, and I’m pretty bummed about tomorrow’s forecast. If you garden in Oklahoma, I bet you are too, but let’s not panic.

I will not cover my peach or apple trees. I don’t want to string lights, and I don’t want to get out all of my blankets and sheets. I hardly ever get fruit from my fruit trees anyway because a freeze almost always spoils them. It’s okay. I’m going to let those go. Now, I will be covering the new roses. I think they’re too young to handle such a drastic temperature change. I’ll also cover the new, small Acer palmatum ‘Orangeola’ I bought the other day. It’s been trying to leaf out, and I need to protect it because it’s a baby in my garden. It was also expensive.

The potager isn't pretty, but it's as cozy as I can get it.
The potager isn’t pretty, but it’s as cozy as I can get it.

I didn’t run out there to cover until after the rain because I wanted it to soak into the soil surrounding the plants. With rain or snow cover, you have a lot better chance at saving your plants. Then, I ran outside and placed large pots over the single plants I covered and used the row tunnels in the veggie garden.

It’s the best I can do under the circumstances. Now, I want to hear from you. Will you cover, or will you not? How will you prioritize who gets to live or die or be severely stunted for a couple of months? Did you heed my warnings about warm-weather plants on social media? If not, no worries, I’ve done that too in the past. You can replace them.

It’s like a triage moment for Oklahoma and Tennessee, and I hear Kansas has it worse. Good luck everyone. Remember, even if we lose a few plants, the garden will come back into beauty again. It will just take awhile.

18 Comments

  1. Debbie says:

    Better to cover. Lost half of my plants when Austin snowed 2 years ago.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I agree. When it gets this low, I simply must cover some of it. Sorry you lost over half of your plants two years ago. That must have been disconcerting.

  2. I am 50 miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. We got hit. It dropped to the mid 20’s and there was a heavy frost on everything. I lost some nasturtiums which had just sprouted. I have extra seeds so will replant.

    The only thing I worry about is the white China Pearl peaches at a local orchard. They are my favorite kind and last year I only got one basket. It appears this year may not be any better.

    As for my flowers, I don’t cover anything. The garden is just too big and I am too lazy. If it lives, it lives.

    Jeannie @ GetMetoTheCountry.blogspot.com

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jeannie, those peaches sound wonderful. I can see why you’re concerned. Let’s hope they weren’t destroyed. We had another freeze last night. I’m pretty tired of this, but spring will soon be finished.

  3. Richard Smith says:

    Our forecast low was for 31 but we woke to temp of 29 and a thin layer of ice. Arghhh! I overwintered geraniums, begonias and ferns in the garage and have already set many of them out , but returned the remainder to the garage yesterday. Hoping for the best for a Norfolk pine that probably should’ve gone in too.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Richard, I don’t know about your Norfolk pine. I hope it’s ok. The ice that fell is actually good for the plants. I’ve heard it insulates them from the drying cold. Let’s hope so. Here’s hoping for a better forecast for you and the rest of the country next week.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It was supposed to get to 24 here last night. I don’t know if it did. At 8a.m. it is 30 so we will see what happened. I didn’t cover anything. I am hoping for the best. I haven’t done any plant shopping as yet. It has been a cold spring here all around. I am trying to be patient. Or maybe I am just getting lazy in my old age. 😉

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I’m a lot lazier than I once was, or older, or something. I only covered the essentials and only because the low was so very low. I’m now trying to decide if I’ll take the covers off. We’re finally up to 48.

  5. Goodness, 24 is bleak. Fingers crossed it was a better than expected. Our cold night is tonight (just above freezing), but the forecast has been improving.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I sure hope yours and ours continues to improve. It’s supposed to. Twenty-four is brutal and bleak.

  6. Sonia says:

    I am bummed about the weather. My hydrangeas are so large and have already really leafed out..so I did cover them with sheets the other night and my hubbie helped me recover them again this evening. These late freezes are so hard on our gardens…but we keep on planting anyway! Praying for a few degrees more tonight. Hope your covers do the trick!! Fingers crossed!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sonia, gardeners are an optimistic lot for sure. It was hard to run around out there and keep covering things. I’m sure the covers helped. Now, for this evening, I’ll need to decide what to do.

  7. Peggy Zortman says:

    It will be 13 degrees tonight and 2 inches of snow. We really need the moisture. I really don’t have much up except some hyacinth and they are very close to the house. Lettuce in a container I brought in. Thank you for your always good information. Good luck

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Peggy, it certainly sounds like you’re prepared. Aren’t you just sick of winter? I am.

  8. Marie at the Lazy W says:

    You’re so practical and encouraging at the same time, Dee. Thanks for the specific advice!! I stapled landscape fabric to the frames of my raised beds where early veggies are doing well, but that’s it. I’m hoping the perennials already going strong stay safe. Especially my link azaleas!! Good luck with your new Japanese Maple!! Stay cozy!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Marie! I think most of your perennials will be fine. Don’t know about the azaleas, but we soon will. I think the maple is fine. The older ones will just have to re-foliate. Ha!

  9. I see you didn’t cover the daylilies. That was smart, I think they can come back from a freeze like that. A lot of your veggies are frost tolerant. Maybe 24° won’t do them in. And I agree: whatever the weather throws at it, the garden will be beautiful again.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Nah, the daylilies will be fine. They’re tough and close to the ground. Plus, no daylily tour this year. Hurrah! I covered all the veggies. They’ll be fine. It’s all good.

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