Whelp, it's April 16th, and there are a few inches of snow and ice on the ground. We had a brief respite from the bad weather, and I managed to prep the soil and install two 80-foot low tunnels for some hardy annuals (stock and snapdragons).
The stock began hardening off in the tunnel before the snow and ice storm. I elected to leave them there. Gutsy. But I knew the tunnel would provide shelter from the wind, ice, and temperatures. I put a piece of Agribon 50 frost cloth over the stock seedlings the first night of the bad weather when I expected the temps to dip just below freezing. The next day, I added a second layer, because the temperatures would dip into the low 20s.
Jamie Sammons at Jayflora Designs inspired me to let these hardy plants enjoy the natural light. Her stock have been planted out in a tunnel for several weeks in Fonda, New York - closer to the Albany area. I was also running out of room for seedlings in the house. And they started looking starved for light. This winter has been relentless. I guess I decided that I'd had enough. I was going to "make spring" for my plants.
In about five days, we'll be smacked with spring. I'm pretty sure, anyways. I see the suns on the forecast. I see some highs in the 50s. I have that on the horizon. Until then, I'm going to get as many seedlings ready for planting out as possible so that I can try to maintain my schedule.
Next year, I'm going to try prepping some low tunnels in the fall when I build the tulip tunnels, so that I can plant the hardy annuals right into them in the spring, without having to wait for snow to melt and the ground to firm up. Then I can focus on prep for the other annuals and get them into the ground earlier, too. (fingers crossed!) I'm learning more about cold climate growing every day, it seems. To some, it might seem difficult. But it is really just different. Different timing. Different strategy. (I rarely have to worry about things getting too hot!) Different plants. Things that are "early summer" varieties elsewhere - like sweet peas - last practically the whole summer here. Field grown dahlias have it tough. The first frost last fall was September 2. But generally, what I've learned is that those cold tolerant plants are stronger than you'd think they are.
It seems likely that we will begin to think more about spring bulbs and corms as our early summer flowers. I was hesitant before to suggest to our June brides that we'd have those specialty tulips and narcissus. This year, anyways, that seems likely. Early summer flowers are more mid June and early July for us (lupine, peonies, allium, columbine). Re-blooming or long-blooming perennial workhorses like hydrangea feel more and more important each season. I must keep growing my collection. 14 hydrangeas this summer will become 20 this fall. We'll just keep working to figure out what makes sense for our farm and clients.