Against my better judgement, I set out about half of my tomato plants a few days ago. The weather has been so unseasonably warm that it's easy to forget it's still early April. The entire winter, in fact, has been so warm many plants I usually treat as annuals lived through the winter. I chose to ignore my garden records that indicate in 2007 the temperature here dropped to 24 degrees F, and in 2008 a frost occurred on April 15. Thinking that we were done with frost because most things are a month ahead of schedule, I set out the plants.
|Healthy, undamaged tomato plants|
|Healthy, undamaged pepper plants|
Even while I was working in the garden, clouds formed in the sky and the wind increased. I checked the weather forecast to see if thunderstorms were expected, and to my dismay, I learned that temperatures in the thirties were expected last night. I stopped setting out plants. Although I covered the plants, below is what I found after I removed the plastic sheet.
|Frost-damaged tomato plant|
This morning at about 7 AM, the thermometer registered 37 degrees F. In the early morning hours, the temperature was lower, and temperatures below 40 degrees will damage tomato plants. When I went out to release the chickens from their house, I noticed white frost across some plants. The cold temperatures caused the blackened, shriveled leaves. These plants may recover; I will give them a chance before I pull them out, but I doubt it. Tomatoes are delicate plants.
|Another frost-damaged plant|
I planted out my Irish potatoes at the proper time, February, and usually expect them to have a some frost damage. These leaves are not damaged because the upper leaves protected them.
|Lower leaves of potato plants are not damaged by frost|
The frost damaged the upper leaves of these potato plants. The potato plants should recover from the damage; they normally get damaged during their early growing period. As I mentioned above, the garden is about a month ahead of its usual growth rate because of the warm weather, and I don't remember seeing plants this large with frost damage before. I believe they will recover, though.
|Frost-damaged potato plants|
Here is my potato patch, with the tops blackened by frost. I could not cover them because there are too many plants.
|Frost damage visible across the entire potato patch|
Next year, no matter how warm the spring is, no matter how many other people are putting out tomato plants, I will not set my tomato plants out until April 15 or so. That's two weeks past the average date of last frost, April 1. Maybe I'll wait three weeks past the last frost date. I'll plant my potatoes at the usual time, February, because they need cool temperatures to grow and will not make a crop during the hot weather they'd experience if I waited until April to plant them; tomatoes need hot weather.