Sunday Garden Chat: Unfreezing

max picotee petunia

“A now properly planted petunia”


From faithful commentor Max:

Slow Exit of the Midwest’s Winter Buries Gardens in a Deep Freeze During what would typically be the busiest week of the year at garden centers in anticipation of Mother’s Day, some customers who have showed up there were frantic, sharing tales of woe about backyard gardens that have been decimated by the cold winter, asking for remedies from staff members & questioning why some new plants are not available, as they have been in previous years…

Tell me about it. 3-4 weeks ago I snagged a tomato plant, planted it (in a pot), left it out overnight, the overnight low bottomed at 37 (as I expected) and the plant got frost damage. So I moved it inside, and continued watched the weather looking for a last freeze. A week ago, it was in the 50’s and 60’s, yesterday it was 89, today it’s raining and much cooler. Whee!

max dwarf coreopsis
The dwarf Coreopis, now (finally!) planted in the (finally finished!) raised bed is taking off.

max midnight blue rose
My ‘midnight blue’ rose bush came in the mail Saturday. (Not really an heirloom/antique rose, but the color was too good to pass up.)

max rose planted out
Promptly planted. We’ll see if it’s worth anything.

max cat in coreopsis
The downside of the bed being finished is that asshole cat has now decided that sleeping in the bed is the ‘with it’ thing to do – hopefully the rose bush will discourage him.

All three of my pitiful little multigraft fruit saplings were badly girdled, for the first time in twenty years. I refuse to admit they’re dead until after Memorial Day, though, because this is New England. And the daffodils are just about done blossoming, but the forsythias are still yellow and the species iris are barely budding, which is the reverse of most years. I’ve put in the first few flowering transplants — another lithodora, more candytuft, a handful of pansies and lobelia — and my mail order tomato plants should be arriving around the end of next week…

What’s going on in your gardens this week?

47 replies
  1. 1
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    Some CA poppies outside my door captured by my Galaxy Camera 2.

  2. 2

    I could use a little freezing, I am steaming in Mumbai right now!

  3. 3
    Walker says:

    I have had to trash my flowerbeds for the season. After all the rain last year, we dicovered the beds were installed without a footer drain. So they were soaking up all that water and dropping it into my basement.

    I am in the middle of excavation fun right now.

  4. 4
    mainmata says:

    Warm and muggy but not really hot in Jakarta – not anything like Mumbai this time of year – or ever really. Lying just below the equator, the mid-90s is as hot as it ever gets. Still the air pollution…

  5. 5
    A non mouse says:

    Just planted tomatoes, onions, peppers (sweet and bell), cauliflower, brussel sprouts, lettuce seed, and cabbage (my 10 year old’s pick!) last weekend. They seem to be OK in the midwest.

  6. 6
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Beautiful.

    Dodging storms is on the agenda. Had the first ones skirt us off to the north last night. Sky was kinda funky to the west and the wind kept shifting around to come out of the east (NOT a good sign) but they all missed. I guess the anti-rain dance I did worked. Which was good as these storms were supposed to be full of “high winds, large hail, and heavy rains”. Supposed to keep that up thru Weds with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. Good temps for me, not so sure the tomatoes and peppers and eggplants would agree.

    I need to get my peppers in today, both hot and sweet, and then some odds and ends of plants. My son brought me some lemon grass and wormwood from STL that I had requested as I could not find any around here. Also brought a pink mini rose for my wife for Mothers Day. That day might be a little tough for him and his brother as their mother is in prison. Don’t really know. Their mother is a subject not often discussed.

  7. 7

    @mainmata: The temperature in Mumbai is in 91 right now but it is the humidity that is the killer, and makes it feel like 102.

  8. 8

    Who is that pretty kitteh?

  9. 9
    max says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Which was good as these storms were supposed to be full of “high winds, large hail, and heavy rains”.

    Ah, tornado weather. I miss it. Beats snow.

    I need to get my peppers in today, both hot and sweet, and then some odds and ends of plants.

    Half my peppers are going. My serrano and cayenne seedlings sprouted very nicely and then up and died. Must start over. On the other hand, the potato peel that sprouted in the compost pile is taking off – so all I have to do now is find a place to plant it where it won’t wash away, won’t be eaten by deer and gets actual sunlight.

    That day might be a little tough for him and his brother as their mother is in prison.


    [‘I managed to find a car for my mom, so I’m set.’]

  10. 10

    We haven’t had a substantial rain here in South Florida in long time and my lawn looks like granola. Since I don’t have a sprinkler system and would prefer that nature run its course, I do minimum watering. But I did stop by Home Depot last weekend to pick up a new nozzle. Found one that looks more like an implement you’d find at an adult boutique, but it does the job.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Slow progress on the garden front but progress nonetheless. I have frames up for 6 tomato plants and have planted 3 of them. I hope the seedlings are tough.

    I’m surprised that I haven’t heard of gardens [and crops] being washed out in the South.

  13. 13
    Central Planning says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!

  14. 14
    JPL says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to those who celebrate. In my house we call it national work day. The sons come over and we tackle a project. Today’s agenda includes prepping an area and laying flagstone.
    Because of the winter weather in GA, I lost dozens of plants, some decades old. Most of the plants are now gone and I’ll start filling in the area with pine straw. I’m going to replant later.
    The vegetable garden is a work in progress but the bean plants are sprouting. The cantaloupe and sweet potatoes are both thriving. Next week we are expecting several days of isolated showers which will help the seeds sprout. Something ate my beet greens which makes me sad.

    @schrodinger’s cat: Have a wonderful time. I can’t wait until another update!

  15. 15
    p.a. says:

    I’m in zone 4-5 and although Rosemary is an annual here I’ve always gotten at least 2 years out of my plants left outside; the best was 5 years. All dead this spring. Didn’t make it through one winter. All my new herbs are in quarantine right now on a screen porch as I watch to see what critters they brought with them from the garden center. Couple of days with spritzes of insecticidal soap, in case I decide any are condemned to my windowsill instead of life in the wilds of my herb garden. Really paranoid about infecting my houseplants with travellers.

  16. 16
    Raven says:

    The roses just started to hit when we left Thursday am so they should be great when we get home later today. Caught fish hung on the beach and got the crap bitten out of me by noseeums !

  17. 17
    satby says:

    I lost 3 tomatoes that I had set out to harden off when the overnight low, predicted near 40, went lower and they got frosted. 3 others survived, so I’m planting them and the 6 plants I ordered today.
    One of my newly planted roses also suffered frost damage even though I covered it, or maybe it’s transplant shock. I thought I’d lost most of my roses over the winter, but leaflets are just appearing now, so the only casualty may be one Joseph’s Coat climber. Hoping that it comes back, I’ll give it another month before I give up and dig it out.
    But in happy news, a Coral Sunset peony I had given up for lost last year when the lawn guys repeatedly weed-whacked it to oblivion survived and came up this year. So that made me happy.
    And petunias looked really good at the garden center this year for some reason, lots of new varieties, so those are going to be a significant segment of my annual planting this year. Fingers crossed!

  18. 18
    qwerty42 says:

    Zone 7 here. Picked up plants at a collection of plant sales a few weeks ago (University Trial Garden, Hort Club, State Bot Garden). Still don’t know what came over me to get some deciduous azaleas. At least I got the annuals planted. Then followed a week of cold weather, temps around freezing. Plants seem to have recovered (some very nicely). The summer daylilly bed is blue with iris right now.

  19. 19
    PurpleGirl says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: That is an adorable picture.

    Here’s one of the kitten cams I watch, maybe it could help you feel better while you’re without your own kittehs. In this room are 3 related momcats and 11 kittens. The shelter is in northeast CT. They are freaky kittens because of mixed up bloodlines and relationships between the moms and the dads. The two black-n-whites are from the same house but not the parents. (Is a long story.)

  20. 20
    ultraviolet thunder says:

    Everything’s late here in Detroit. The big redbud tree is in bud but is usually in bloom by this date.
    Last weekend I gave all of the flowers and ornamentals their spring Miracle Grow dousing and they’re responding well. So are the weeds, so I need to get down on my knees and deal with that.

    All of my Baltic ivy ground cover may be dead. I planted it 10 years ago and it’s always done fabulously. This spring I have many square yards of dead leaves. Never seen it die back over the winter before. I hope the vines are alive and it will grow back.

    My prickly pear cactus dozed under several feet of snow and that may have protected it. It’s bouncing back and I expect flowers by the end of June.

  21. 21
    geg6 says:

    This past fucking winter sucked donkey balls. We had a spectacular rose garden going down by our koi pond that John has been lovingly cultivating for years. Pretty much every rose bush was killed over the winter. He may be able to salvage a few, but he’s going to have to start all over again.

    In better news, our tulips are spectacular this year.

  22. 22
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    Ah, tornado weather. I miss it. Beats snow.

    Say what you want about the spring weather in the Ozarks, it’s never boring.

  23. 23
    JPL says:

    @PurpleGirl: They are so cute and I’ve forwarded the link to friends. Thanks.

  24. 24
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: And true to form, I hear thunder now.

  25. 25
    nancydarling says:

    Here in NW Arkansas, I planted two apples and a peach in late March. The apples leafed out and blossomed but the peach seemed dead. I called the nursery and they called their supplier for advice. The peach had something called ‘twig die-back’. They advised pruning the twigs by half and branches larger than my little finger by a third. It worked. It is leafing out and even has blossoms.

    I’ll be planting today and also laying down some black plastic in spots to fight bermuda grass which has invaded from the surrounding pastures—-got to nip it in the bud. I use a no-till organic method.

    In addition to my happy dance about the tree, I am doing a happy dance because a judge ruled Arkansas’ ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. It’s not over because some of the bible thumpers in the lege are making noises about impeaching the judge and our AG is going to take it to the Arkansas supremes. Our judiciary is becoming more fucked up every day. We are not as bad as West Virginia, but it’s not for lack of trying.

  26. 26
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @nancydarling: Hells bells, you Arkies are better than us Miserians. That judge would have been lynched by now if it was up here.

  27. 27
    nancydarling says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I actually do fear for his safety, Ozark.

    President Obama visited the tornado hit areas last week and the reception was quite nice, so maybe there’s hope for us. I worried about his visit too.

  28. 28
    GregB says:

    OT, I have a family wedding today, so no gardening.

    But a little cultural observation about the current zeitgeist in America. Elizabeth Warren’s book is number one and Piketty’s book is number five on the NYT’s bestseller list.

  29. 29
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @nancydarling: I know, but in some ways, AR is a lot more progressive than MO.

  30. 30
    geg6 says:


    That’s awesome. Really.

  31. 31
    Talentless Hack says:

    Your cat sleeps in the flower beds? Ours would use them as litter boxes.

  32. 32
    Botsplainer says:

    I never have cared for Pussy Riot type protests, but am thinking that the folks at the Mormon Tabernacle in SLC have one coming in the face of their craven silence and tacit support of the Bundy Rebellion.

    This makes my blood boil.

  33. 33
    Botsplainer says:

    I never have cared for P**** Riot type protests, but am thinking that the folks at the Mormon Tabernacle in SLC have one coming in the face of their craven silence and tacit support of the Bundy Rebellion.

    This makes my blood boil.

  34. 34
    Baud says:

    @nancydarling: @OzarkHillbilly:

    Don’t fight, kids. Both y’all’s states suck. ;-)

  35. 35
    nancydarling says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Name one way we are more progressive just to make me feel better.

  36. 36
    StringOnAStick says:

    Mother’s Day is the traditional “all clear” for frost date around here (Denver area), but this year we have a warning of 5 to 8 inches of snow today, and the same for additional accumulation overnight. Stuff like this doesn’t happen every year, but once every decade or two seems typical.

    I have to plant veggies in self-watering pots in the front here due to elk and deer in the open space area behind us, so they are all in the garage waiting this out. The tallest flowering plants in the yard have ornate sheet & bamboo structures to keep them from being crushed. By the end of today there should be widespread power outages since so many trees are partially leafed out and the snow will be wet and heavy.

    I did manage to get my Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plant last week; a little hard to find but it is the only one that seems to be heavily productive in a pot here (along with more elaborate bamboo and string structure since it gets so big). I’ve given up on the standard “pot tomato” types – never had any luck.

    I feel for the local nurseries since today is the big seasonal kick-off, and the NWS is telling people to stay home unless it is an emergency. We’re headed up to go backcountry skiing since the prediction is for 2 feet or more up there.

  37. 37
    nancydarling says:

    @Baud: That’s not true. I moved here by choice because I could afford some land. There are lots of good, progressive people in both states.

    Ticks and chiggers do suck though.

  38. 38
    Baud says:


    I was joking. Those states obviously have some good BJers!

  39. 39
    nancydarling says:

    @Baud: Baud, Eureka Springs where the first licenses were issued yesterday is a gay haven and has been since the ’60s counter culture movement. I had an email from a friend yesterday AM saying they were going to rally at the court house because they heard the county clerk was not going to issue same-sex licenses. After some confusion, the licenses were issued. I had a cooking class so could not rally with them. I swung by after my class to check it out. There was still a line, but people were getting licenses.

    Arkansas is not a bastion of progressive thinking, but it gets better!

  40. 40
    MomSense says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    So envious! Have fun and please keep the dispatches coming!

  41. 41
    JPL says:

    @StringOnAStick: mentioned that you were going to get some snow. ugh Have fun skiing though.

  42. 42

    @MomSense: Don’t be, just met mother-in-law (super difficult person) and I want to come home. I miss my kittehs something fierce.

  43. 43
    Goblue72 says:

    Dug up the planting strip in front of the house and turned them into flower beds with a mess of flowering perennials & ornamental grasses. Was the last major gardening project of Spring. We’re in Seattle so we started our garden beginning last month. The kale & lettuces are getting harvestable; the rest of the veggies coming along slowly.

    Looking like an atypical for Seattle dry & sunny week – so the grass seed I put down is going to need watering – there goes the water bill.

  44. 44
    jnfr says:

    It’s snowing around Denver today. My tomato and pepper seedlings are safe indoors under lights.

  45. 45
    shelley says:

    he potato peel that sprouted in the compost pile is taking off – so all I have to do now is find a place to plant it where it won’t wash away, won’t be eaten by deer and

    I thought potato foliage was poisonous. Guess deer can eat anything.

  46. 46
    Linnaeus says:

    You know, as bad as cold can get, I’ll take it over drought.

  47. 47
    Kristine says:

    The lawn took a beating this winter. The gardening expert at the hardware big box said that the freeze line went down to 4 feet–that left me with patches of dead and more thatch than I’ve ever before seen. I’ve spent the last two days raking, and will reseed in a couple of weeks, after the organic weed suppressor soaks in (it suppresses germination).

    I usually see forsythia bloom in late March here in far NE Illinois, but this spring they’ve been opening over the last couple of weeks. My daffs opened over the last few days because the temps have jumped into the 70s/80s. We still have some highs in the 50s predicted over the next couple of weeks, but I am hoping that the warmth is finally seeping in for the duration.

    Hostas and ferns are coming up. I planted lettuce seeds a couple of weeks ago–the sprouts are about a quarter to a half-inch high. Waiting for the tomato plants to arrive from the mail-order place.The trees are budding, but the crabapples aren’t anywhere close to flowering. What a crazy spring.

Comments are closed.