Though sprinklers have been running for a week now, this morning found frost on the windshield.
“Southwestern South Dakota is notorious for a spring blizzard. It’s better to wait until after Mother’s Day to be sure you’ll avoid frost damage,” warns Tim Sime, owner of Rapid City nursery Jolly Lane Greenhouse.
Watering outdoor plants before the threat of frost is gone will only accelerate frost damage. Though it is difficult to not spend time in the glorious sun prepping our gardens and yards for a beautiful spring, patience will yield a better reward.
Spring frost damage is unmistakable. Small leaves look like they’ve been set aflame while slightly more mature plants will turn dark and greasy. Plants have to produce new leaves to replace what was lost and that takes a tremendous effort for the damaged plant. Some cannot recover at all from spring frost while others will recover and yield less that if they had not been damaged.
The best defense against a spring frost,” says Sime, “is to just be patient and plant after the threat of frost has passed.”
But, if you already planted and frost is imminent, Sime says the best thing to do is to cover vulnerable plants with fabric like burlap. He warns against using plastic as the morning sun could scorch them if the plastic is not removed right away.
Frost damage, though unmistakable, can sometimes take weeks to show up leaving gardeners surprised when their plants suddenly turn brown. When water inside plant cells expands from freezing and breaks cell walls, it may not be visible until everything dries up.
If your plants suffer frost damage “Don’t water the next day,” cautions this Rapid City green thumb, “let the plants thaw naturally.”
Although it isn’t very appealing leave the damaged leaves intact. They will act as protection until the danger of frost is passed. Plants may look dead but don’t give up on them right away. Roots can sometimes remain alive even though the top part of the plant has died.
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About Jolly Lane Greenhouse
Jolly Lane Greenhouse is open all year, providing novice gardeners and experienced green thumbs alike with high-quality seasonal plants, trees, and herbs, seasonal decorations, and expert advice on landscape design and plant care. For more information about the Rapid City garden center, visit http://www.jollylane.com/