In Virginia we are used to the back and forth of early spring weather. You might have a week of 70 degree temperatures, followed by a week of frosty nights and mornings. If you’re a fan of warm weather this can be a particularly frustrating time, where you might get a preview of what’s to come only to have your hopes dashed by a week of 30 and 40 degree highs. This can be hard on not just your spirits, but your plants as well.
One of the most important things to understand first is that there is a fundamental difference between climate and weather. Climate is an amalgamation of historical weather data that can determine what might grow well in particular areas. Weather is whatever is happening now, whether it is variations in wind, sun, precipitation, or humidity. Your plants might handle our climate well, but they can certainly still be affected by the weather.
One concern for amateur gardeners this time of year is how warmer days with freezing nights and mornings will affect the health of their plants. This concern is usually sparked by prematurely planting annuals because you’ve been prompted by warmer weather, or seeing that your perennials have popped up during a few warm days. During the winter, plants enter a dormant stage which helps them endure cold temperatures. Warm spring weather causes them to leave dormancy and resume growth—but if this warm period is just temporary, your plants cells can be damaged when the cold weather returns.
If you or your perennials have been fooled by premature warm weather- fear not! Protecting your plants is easy. The first thing you will want to do is be aware of the forecast. Know what nights are calling for freezing temperatures, and take action. Cover your plants with buckets, burlap, newspapers, old linens, or plastic planting pots over night to protect them from frost. Simply remove their coverings during the day, and re-cover when necessary.
Hopefully now you can rest assured that even if early spring planting excitement gets the best of you, you can still have a healthy and beautiful garden, and enjoy the fruits of your labor all season long!