Too Bad for the Broccoli

– Posted in: Seeds and Seed Starting, Weather
5 comments

Yes, folks, this is going to be a sad post. Better get out your Kleenex. *Sigh.* Particularly sad after last year’s broccoli, which was the most wonderful broccoli I’d ever had in my life, no kidding. That was amazing broccoli.

First we must set the stage. . .

After our terrible flooding (for most of which, I was out of state), and subsequent 80 degree weather (for most of which, I was out of state), we settled into one of the most glorious Springs I can remember. We typically do get Spring flooding, and we do typically have several days in April that are in the 80’s, or even break 90’s. But our typical Spring is cold and/or muddy–hence, Mud Season. Then there is one week of Spring, in which all of the trees leaf out, flowers bloom, etc. Sometimes Spring is followed by (or cut short by) a hard freeze, leading to no apple crops, and no lilac blooms. This one week of Spring is followed by Summer. Don’t blink, or you miss Spring.

But this year. . .! The daffodils are just finishing up, and the apple trees haven’t even opened yet! We actually have a Spring this year, with temperatures usually only in the upper 60’s, with that lovely Spring breeze, and plants are taking their turns.

OK, now for the story. I had been hardening off my broccoli, lettuce, spinach, and parsley. I decided to leave it out for the night, as it had finished its daytime hardening off, and all of those plants are supposed to be cold weather plants. A light frost shouldn’t bother them.

And, of course, it chose that one night to dip down to 20 degrees, and it totally fried them all.

Well, most of the lettuce struggled through (it has gotten back on its feet, but it’s been several weeks), but the parsley, spinach and broccoli didn’t make it all. Is the this the end of the story? No. I had already started round two of broccoli, lettuce and spinach. I like to stagger them, partly for harvesting reasons and partly so that I still have enough room under the grow lights. I started round 3 to make up for the death of round one. I carefully hardened off round 2. For their first night out, I checked the forecast online. It said lows in the low 30s, which shouldn’t hurt the plants. But, just in case, I pulled all the seedlings on to the porch where they would be more sheltered.

And it got down to 21 degrees, wilted the lettuce and spinach slightly, and really did a number on the poor broccoli. And at this point it is too late to start a round 4. The lettuce and spinach have bounced back without a problem, and the broccoli is hanging onto life by a thread.

And while all of this is really sad, particularly in the early morning, when it seems like it might be a good idea just to go back to bed, it’s not the worst for me. I should like to blame this all on the fickleness of our weather, and valiantly claim that I did all that could possibly be expected of me, but alas, that’s not true. The saddest, shame-fullest part of the whole story is that it is all my fault.

Not only could have I known better, but I did know better.

Every gardener begins to pick up on some rules that apply to their own little ecosystems. One of the rules for our little valley is that the last frost is never before June 7th. Not even June 6th can be frost free. Anyone who sees the temperatures soaring into the 90’s on June 6th and plants out their tomatoes will be cursing the weather gods on the morning of June 7th as they discover all of their wilted tomatoes. Even if you have been without a frost for 2 1/2 weeks, there is always that one, last frost. Maddening, but consistent. If you know it, and ignore, it’s your own fault.

Another rule for our little ecosystem is that regardless of what the lowest temperature is predicted, it will always be at least 10 degrees colder. And I knew that. In fact, I made that rule up! Nonetheless, at that late hour, I chose to willfully believe the lying weather report instead of what I knew to be true, and I left the plants on the porch.

Woe is me, for I am being punished for my sins!

I could have sour grapes, and say it doesn’t look like it’ll be much of a year for broccoli anyway–too hot and dry. I could grasp at straws, and say I’m sure I will still get some broccoli. I could be an optimist, and say it looks like it will be a good tomato year, I will probably get a record harvest this year. I could look at things honestly, and say no matter what, I’m sure I’ll be canning pickles till my eyes cross. But what do I say?

Too bad for the broccoli. I’ll miss it.

About the Author

Talitha spent the last few years doing an absurd combination of work and school, and found it wasn’t very pleasant. Now she’s doing work, school and a garden, and life is a little better! She also enjoys photography and hand feeding her ducks. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: herbs, vegetables, cutting garden, cottage gardening

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kent May 10, 2005, 10:47 am

I can relate to getting frosted, last year there was frost every month. My garden near the river escaped the worst of it, the other garden got hit in July with the potatoes getting nipped and the beans melting down.

Hope this year is better.

Talitha May 10, 2005, 5:59 am

Alas, that’s not a sure thing yet. Note I said that the apple trees haven’t opened yet–we might yet lose both!! If we get frost before they open, we’re fine. If we get frost after the blossoms are donw, we’re fine. If we get frost during the time that the trees are blooming merrily away, the whole crop get’s wasted.

It is encouragaing, though, to see that the apple tree’s are taking thier time this year, so maybe they’ll do all right.

Cynthia May 9, 2005, 8:55 pm

Hey just think about all of the apple pies you’ll be making! That sounds better than broccoli pie doesn’t it?