Calibrachoa in the Snow
Photograph © Kerry Michaels
Just got this email from Tris, an online friend:
Oh, Kerry! I wasn't able to set up my regular seed starting inside this year and have had to wait for it to warm up outside. With our uncommonly warm early spring here in MN, I'm just chomping at the bit! ... Do you think I can start some of the "tougher" annual seeds yet? I have marigolds, petunias, nasturtiums and a few others I collected last fall. I know I have to wait for some of the more tender annuals but I'm aching to get out there and get some dirt under my fingernails?
Here's my answer:
Dear Tris, WHOA Girl!!! I totally get where you are coming from, but do not get seduced by these early warm days!!! As tempting as it is to declare that it is spring, and plant tender things early, you do so at your peril. Mother Nature is notoriously fickle and can hurl killing frost, even snow down on us impatient gardeners, whacking all of our plants in one fell swoop - it has happened to me numerous times.
That said, if you just can't stand waiting, there are things you can do. One of my techniques is to drag my plants in and out of the garage every morning and night, until it gets warm enough to leave them out. I have a fleet of little red wagons, donated by neighbors and friends, and bought at yard sales, for this purpose.
This article also has some ideas for extending your season and protecting your containers from frost and cold.
So, my friend, the most prudent course is to hold your horses (and your zinnias), but sometimes that is just no fun and the risk is worth the excitement.