A Cold Spring…

With temperatures on the west coast lower than average, Spring is progressing at a slow pace.  While we usually experience extended Spring and Fall seasons here on the coast, this year it seems like Winter just won’t let go!

Just kidding, theres no snow left here (but it did try to snow a few days ago)!

The hummingbirds are buzzing around my feeder non-stop, trying to keep their tiny bodies fed and warm on sugar-water, because of a dearth of blossoms.  They whizz past my head with inches to spare, prompting me to wonder if anybody has ever been impaled by an errant hummingbird.  Those little beaks look pretty sharp!

Photo credit Donna Holland

Both April 15th and 16th saw heavy ground frost, and as a result, plants that had been happily growing in my greenhouse were bitten.  The max-min thermometer is broken so I don’t know exactly how cold it was overnight, but it doesn’t really matter.  My poor geraniums, osteospermum , aeonium and even a precocious dahlia are blackened and wilting.  I think they will recover after a vicious prune, and hopefully we won’t have another hard frost like that one! While we can expect light frosts into May, it is rarely cold enough to damage the plants in my greenhouse, which is shut tight each evening.

Yet when I counsel customers at the garden centre to keep their tender plants protected at this time of year, they often tell me “it’s all right, I always plant my bedding now”, or “I planted my tomatoes outside last April and they survived”.

They might be buying replacements in a couple of weeks, and they won’t be happy about it, but at least they can’t say they weren’t warned!

I totally understand, I am constantly pushing the envelope with early sowings, or sneaking a few transplants into a protected spot before the recommended planting date.  If conditions are favourable, the early harvests are a source of pride, but more often than not I’m reseeding or replacing.  Even if your plants survive, the stress of exposure to cold temperatures may mean the plants take longer to recover and start growing than if you’d just waited a week or two.  So be patient!

A few lost seeds won’t break the bank, but costs can add up quickly if you lose a bunch of transplants.  And with the booming popularity of vegetable gardening these days, you might be hard pressed to replace popular varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and other in-demand veggies.

Fortunately for me, I have been so busy that this unusually cold Spring hasn’t caused much concern (except for the recent damage to the contents of my greenhouse).  I haven’t planted much besides some peas, lettuce, spinach and asian greens.  I’ve buried a few spuds but they are wisely hiding underground.

After the big cleanup - one geranium looks good, the rest, not so much...

Mid April usually finds me sowing carrots, but I’m in no hurry this year, May sounds like a good month for carrots, but I think I will sow my kohlrabi this weekend, it’s quite cold hardy.

My tomatoes are enjoying themselves on the windowsill in my living room, and they will stay there until the greenhouse is sustaining nighttime low temperatures of no less than 10 degrees celsius.

Toasty warm tomato plants

Peppers, pumpkins, and other heat loving plants are just a gleam in my eye at this point, and likely to remain so for a couple or three weeks yet, although I may buy pepper transplants soon, and they’ll join the tomatoes in my living room.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom” St. Augustine

About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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11 Responses to A Cold Spring…

  1. Ah…you are miles ahead of me my friend…my lettuce is shrinking into itself it is so cold in my little garden…peas are up though!!

  2. I can’t believe months ago I actually felt homesick for snow!! was I mad? Looking at your picture of “spring” snow makes me feel quite chilly. Your words remind of how eager I was in the UK planting out my bedding plants and young veg early. I was out everynight with the fleece to cover them, but invariably I was caught out.
    Your tom toms look nice and healthy. Mine are spindly in comparison 😦
    I planted some carrot seeds following your post…think it was about 24/3…not one has appeared…;( think they must have been dud seeds. I am sure they do not normally take that long- perhaps the ants walked off with the seeds! I like the idea of planting them in a square rather than lines though 🙂
    Will have to give it another go

    • hortophile says:

      Yes, those tomato plants (that I just bought from the garden centre and transplanted into larger pots) are lovely 🙂 . As for your carrots – the seed may have been too old – like my lettuce.

  3. Lovely post! Good luck with that ol’ patience 😉

    p.s the tomato plants sure look happy! 😀

  4. Slowvelder says:

    your tomatoes look superb – I wish mine would germinate 😦

  5. Slowvelder says:

    Yeah – I think I need new seed – mine are all old 😦

  6. I remember one year when I actually had a garden I set out tomato plants too early and they were very slow to grow. Just to be sure I’d have tomatoes, I planted two new ones a few weeks later. Those 2 took off and the ones I’d planted early never really caught up to the ones I planted when it was warmer. I guess it really is better not to try to push the envelope too much, no matter how we year to! So sorry you lost plants in your greenhouse — it’s never fun when you get a nasty, unexpected cold snap.

  7. I bought my Black Cherry tomato yesterday, I am way to lazy to do it from seed 🙂

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