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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recycled shelter

By Jennifer

I'm blindsided. I've lived in the same region all my gardening life, and have never seen snow this late into May. What in the world?!? The drive in junior high carpool this morning was long enough for rain to turn to snow on my windshield. The radio announcer noted the temperature as 37 degrees. I freaked out a little bit, knowing that my tomato plants were helpless naked beach bums about to be invited to a ski slope.

I had a double scramble when I got home: getting my younger children ready for elementary school, as well as coming up with ways to protect my tomato plants and other seedlings from the thickening snow. Thankfully, (as is my habit), I was a bit behind with gardening, so I'd only planted five tomatoes when starting my plot nine days ago. All the other seedlings remained in their flats on the patio. And since I also hadn't yet taken down my grow lights, I whisked the flats back indoors to those shelves.

 Yes, this picture is oriented correctly. The poor tomato plant is lying on the ground.

But what to do about the vulnerable plants outside? Apart from cottage cheese, I'm not a real fan of white stuff on my tomatoes. It's not the snow itself I'm concerned about really, just the fact that it's COLD ENOUGH for snow! An hour after my junior high trip, as I took my other children to school, the radio announcer noted the temperature as 36 degrees. Getting colder! Not good.

How could I have been so oblivious to the weather? Even as I was asking myself "Why didn't I cover my plants last night?" I frantically searched for a solution. My first choice was milk jugs, of which I found two empty under the sink, and another nearly so in the fridge.

I decided to make newspaper teepees for the remaining two plants. And wouldn't you know it? In gathering sections of newspaper I found the weather forecast:

Ah-ha! No mention of snow whatsoever. At least I wasn't off in the head! I found great satisfaction in using that very newspaper page -- and its incorrect forecast -- to shelter my tomatoes.

To make the freestanding teepees I stacked five to six long sections, then loosely folded and stapled them. That's all. I left a small opening at the top to allow some light and ventilation.

I prefer bottomless milk jugs over the newspaper teepees, because they are rigid and allow lots of light. You can also use the lid to close them at night, offering warm, greenhouse-like conditions -- but the newspaper teepees will do great in a pinch. If the bad weather persists I will replace them as I empty more jugs. So drink up, kids!

At least it's not all bad. My peas, lettuce and spinach will be loving life. Read here and here for more about cold-tolerant crops.


catherine said...

I used to work at that newspaper before my move eastward - how funny! I've never heard the milk-jug-greenhouse idea before. Thanks for that! Enjoy the slight warming trend. :)

mike said...

Snow in May proves that mother nature has a sense of humor.

Jana said...

We had snow this weekend and it looks like more is on the way. The mountians in Nor Cal are very unpredictable! I will try the milk carton newspaper thing. I put some tomatoes and peppers out a few weeks ago with water walls and none made it.


Yee Haw. If this is global warming, I'm all for it.

Judy said...

Can you please send just a wave or two of that cool air down this way? It's getting so hot down here (and earlier than normal too). We're already getting in the lower 90's :-(

Jennifer said...

@Catherine, I used to work there too -- perhaps we overlapped.