“Apart from Thee we plant in vain
The root and sow the seed;
Thy early and Thy later rain,
Thy sun and dew we need.”
—“Garden: A Hymn for the American Horticultural Society, 1882” by John Greenleaf Whittier, the Quaker Poet
What my garden did not need was a freeze on the morning of the 16th of May. My poor potatoes and bush beans! Their leaves turned a dark, ugly green and folded down around their stems like collapsed umbrellas. Only time will tell if the potatoes can recover.
|My Beans and Potatoes After a Freeze on May 16th|
Just when I was allowing myself to think that, this year, my garden will be the best I have had in the past several years, Mother Nature may have had other ideas.
Before dawn, I had trained my flashlight on my outdoor thermometer and had seen that the temperature had dropped to 30° Fahrenheit. In the stillness of that hour, I felt alarm. What would happen to the young, tender plants? Would the temperature at ground level be a few degrees higher? Would there be no killing frost? I hoped for a good outcome.
At sunrise, frost blanketed my lawn. A few hours later, I visited my garden, and my heart sank. I grew up on a farm. Accordingly, I am generally prepared to accept acts of God that can menace livestock or damage crops. Even so, I felt sad. As I stood there, observing my poor beans and potatoes, I felt sad for them, not so much for me. For an instant, I even questioned whether I could have covered the rows on the previous evening. Perhaps I could have spared the plants this agony. Then I realized that I would have needed lots of sheets to cover four rows. I had protected a recently moved peony with a large cardboard box, but I could not have defended my potatoes and beans from the cold.
|Beans Replanted on May 23rd|
Suddenly, I remembered it. Was it an old saying, or was it simply advice from a neighbor? It went something like this: “Don’t plant your garden until after the 15th of May.” Naturally, some plants can withstand a frost. As far as I can tell, my lettuce, beets, and onions have not suffered from the low temperature. For that matter, my border of flowers looks normal to me. The fact that the frost came on the 16th lends the advice the ring of truth, particularly for beans and potatoes.
I replanted the beans on the 23rd. Then I awaited the future. Will the potatoes continue to serve their stems until fresh foliage opens to the sun? As Whittier wrote, “we plant in vain” without “Thy sun”—and without Thy warmth, he might have added.