How Cold is Too Cold?

Today’s question: should I cover anything in the Demonstration Garden?

(Before going any further, let me warn you that my position on plants is this: In general, that they can tolerate quite a lot of abuse, and there needs to be a really good reason for me to go to heroic measures to “save” them from the weather.)

Lettuce growing under the row cover last fall.

Lettuce growing under the row cover last fall.

The biggest question in my mind right now is: How cold is it really going to get and for how long? Local weather seems to indicate that the low will be around 27 degrees, which is very tolerable for most cool season vegetables. Accuweather.com; however, indicates that the low will be 24 degrees. That’s a little bit too cold, I think.

Let’s look at what we have growing right now:

Strawberries – very cold tolerant, they aren’t blooming yet. No reason to cover them. Even if they get nipped by the cold, it won’t do any long-term damage.

Blackberries, Raspberries, Currants, etc – These have started leafing out for the spring. I could cover them, but I’m not going to. They are very hardy plants, and even if they get nipped a bit in the cold, it won’t set them back very much.

Spring Flowering Bulbs – Yeah, we’ve got some daffodils, tulips, and grape hyacinths out there. In my opinion, they aren’t worth worrying about. They tolerate the cold well, but if it shortens their bloom time this year, oh well.

Pansies – Same as above. They’ve survived the whole winter without protection, I’m not going to start now!

Peas – The peas we planted last week are not even out of the ground yet. They are very tolerant of cold weather, and I expect whatever snow we get to insulate them. Not covering them!

Herbs – These are just perennials that have started growing. Nope, I’m not going to cover these either!

Brussels Sprouts & Kale – These plants should easily tolerate temperatures down to 27 or 28. But 25…? They’ll probably make it, but they’ll take some damage. The brussels sprouts are just coming out of the damage from 2 weeks ago…should I let them take another hit? I’m tempted to cover them, but…we can always plant something else!

Lettuce, Spinach, Radishes, etc – All of these are seeds that we planted a week ago. They are just barely starting to poke their leaves up out of the ground. I really don’t want to lose them, but it would only set the garden back about a week and a half. That being said, I really doubt that the weather will hurt them much. If we get snow like we are supposed to, I think that will provide enough insulation should the temperatures get colder. After all, these are early spring crops that should tolerate the cold!

So, my decision is that we will let the garden grow and see what happens when the cold and snow hit! If anything, it will be an interesting demonstration of what will tolerate how much cold.

UPDATE: Actually, I’m rather excited as the projected snow totals keep rising. We desperately need the moisture, although the cold temperatures are less than ideal! (Besides, we haven’t had enough snow this winter! Am I betraying my Wisconsin upbringing with that sentiment?)

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on March 26, 2009, in Around the Garden and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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