Devastation of a hard freeze

I wrote up a post between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so excited to show you a quick peek of how my babies were doing! The garden produced abundantly all throughout the holidays, and I continued to give it away. I had so many holidays posts written though, I thought I’d wait until after the New Year to post this one. But the new year brought his buddy Jack Frost along for the ride…and my heart broke.

I wanted to hug them.

I stopped by to check and see if the string I used to tie up and protect my cauliflower still held. My gardening neighbor John struggled to cover his entire garden with plastic. Originally from West Virginia, he said it was better to be safe than sorry. It was supposed to get down to 22 degrees.

22 degrees? What?

But these were cold weather plants and no one else in the entire garden had covered anything. I helped him with the massive sheet of plastic and he helped me pick my greens and 2 of my cabbages, just for in case. It grew too dark to see what to pick. I snatched the handful of fragile spinach because if anything that wouldn’t make it.

I stopped by the next day…

John had pulled the plastic off his garden earlier that morning and it stood up and sang, lovely and green. I held my breath as I trudged through the wet ground to my plot.

My heart jumped into my throat and I couldn’t shake the waves of dread. 13 mustard greens leaned over, wilted and pathetic resembling wet plastic. Bugs landed, nibbling at them. 5 cauliflower plants peeked through dying leaves with a strange yellow glow. 9 collard plants appeared damaged with chicken pox scars but still standing. I wanted to swoop in and hug them all, and kiss them better. But I’d killed them. There was no fixing this. I stood alone in the garden under the glaring sun, and wept.

Mustards after freeze.

My thoughts berated me. “Look what all you wasted! Everyone knows plants can’t get through a freeze. What’s the matter with you? What, do you live on the moon? What were you thinking? Would you leave your own children in the cold without a blanket? Your husband would have known what to do. He wouldn’t have let them die. The weather channel is practically his religion. He would have read the gardening book. Why didn’t you read the book? I should have watched the Weather Channel every night. I should have paid attention that John covered his entire garden. I should have listened to my mother. I should have used a sheet. I should have known that “cold weather plants” don’t mean they can get through 22 degrees. I should have, I should have…”

The cabbage looked okay, only the outer leaves looked unhappy and discolored. Strangely, the spinach looked great. Who knew? My other two spinach plants died weeks ago. I untied each cauliflower to find a yellow dying head. Like a child in denial over a broken toy, I tied them back up in hopes they would somehow heal themselves. And just when I thought all hope was lost; I untied the leaves of the last of the cauliflower plants. It shone the right color white and wasn’t spongy. I let out a laugh. One survived. It was more robust than the others, had more leaves. “That’s my baby girl,” I told her. At least I’d have one.

A miracle!

(My turnips and carrots in the back yard survived, as they were underground. And my stunted collards– from lack of sunlight– made it through just fine. But we live across from the water and apparently that’s a heat trap. I had no idea. And I am extremely grateful.)

But you know, it’s okay. Chin up, Jenn. You’ll know for next year. Like John told me, “Gardening is an experiment in learning. Every year you know a little more.” Β I already knew things weren’t going to be perfect this year. I claimed it in my new year’s resolutions. I just didn’t think I’d lose the garden the very first week! The tears dried and I pulled out my left over seeds from the freezer to see what I can start at the end of the month for the Feb./March season to comfort myself.

Cucumber, tomato, banana peppers, lima beans, cow peas, okra, lettuce, spinach again maybe. And lots and lots of marigolds. Yellow and gold marigolds will surround us–and good food again. And the fruit didn’t freeze! It’s sweeter than ever. See, I’m feeling better already. πŸ™‚ It’s going to be okay. Or as my therapist used to say, “It IS okay.”

It’s okay.

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26 responses to “Devastation of a hard freeze

  1. samantha carrion

    Don’t fret. Just think of how much produce you grew and were fortunate to have, with lots to give away. Hell who am I kidding? I’d be crying too. However, you are doing great!

    • Thanks Samantha! I did rescue some the night of the freeze. That was John’s idea, really. The man is a genius.But you’re right. I did have a great harvest. I am very thankful!

  2. Sorry to hear about your garden, Jennifer.
    We planted in pots last year and we had a few strawberries and tomatoes and even a zucchini that grew in our compost (but it didn’t grow enough before it got too cold for it). many veggies didn’t make it but as my husband says: “we’ve learned a few new things and it will prepare us for next year or for when we are able to have our own garden” and I agree. All IS ok. Sometimes we need to loose something in order to gain something else…, in your case more knowledge, more strenght, more patience… .

    • Thanks Polish Mom Photographer. It’s so true. Learning lessons the hard way is so….hard! But next year will be better. I’ll be glued to the weather channel. My husband watches it so much, I tell him when he gets out of the military he should go into weather!
      Your hubby is right.
      And I really needed those hugs. πŸ™‚

  3. You have learned a valuable lesson: Always listen to a West Virginian! πŸ™‚

  4. Well now life is a learning experience for sure isn’t it. My gardening is so different in this northern climate that I have been struggling to figure it out for 4 years in a row. In the mild lower coastal region of BC it’s a piece of cake; up here it is one of those not all that easy to take “learning experiences”. “Next year” is my favorite saying. Next year, Jennifer, next year.

  5. So sorry for your loss Jennifer, thankfully you enjoyed a good harvest before the frost. I am not a gardener, but do listen to the Weather Channel reporters and they kept telling us last week (when our temps dipped to the low 30s for two days) that plants should not be covered with plastic, sheets of cloth should be used instead. I made a note of that, not sure why since I did not have plants that need that much nurturing.

    • Marcia, I’m still reeling. But you’re right. It was a GREAT harvest. I gave away so many greens, my girlfriend said she wanted to start her own garden and asked me to help her start one in the spring. I was so flattered! So, it was all SO worth it. We’ve had such an amazing year. Sometimes, I think I’m so happy, I could burst! (The garden brings me more happiness than I could ever, even imagine.)
      And it’s true about the plastic. Even as we put it down over John’s garden, he said it was an experiment because he’d heard wherever the plastic “touched” the plants, it would burn them. So, he’d put up sticks to keep it lifted. I was relieved to see it was fine the next morning. My mom (a.k.a. Master Gardener) always uses a sheet.
      I just felt so stupid, you know? And I’m still so upset about it. So much more food I could have given away.
      Well, no use crying over spilled milk. I’ll just have to tune in to the weather channel next year. OMG. I’m turning into my mother!

      • OMG, I am turning into my mother! LOL
        At one time or the other we all do, I look at it as the circle of life. When we are growing up we hear all the admonishments our parents dispense, but do not quite take them in (at least not conciously) until one day when we’ve become adults, it suddenly hits us. That’s when we are able to absorb the lessons, and soon enough pass them on to our own children,

      • That is so true, Marcia! Well shoot. Looks like I’ve FINALLY reached adulthood. (I always was a late bloomer.) Lol!

  6. This broke my heart but I know that you will grow more and had such a great yield right off the bat. I feel your pain when you wanted to hug them. I wanted to hug and save them and hug you too. Thanks so much for always sharing these wonderful stories, lessons, great recipes and information. I heard that when it gets colder and you have a great bunch of growth that burlap works well. Haven’t tried it before but have heard that and staked trash bags around the little guys work to keep and retain the heat while allowing the air to circulate. We live, learn and perservere. Keep moving forward learning and growing. YOU ARE AMAZING SWEETIE!!!!!! I am thankful and grateful to know you.

    • Attracting Wellness, I’m so flattered. You touched my heart. Thank you so much. And thank you for the encouragement. You’ve made me feel better already! I am constantly amazed by the amazing people I met via this blog that I would never have the chance to meet otherwise. The internet is a powerful, valuable tool! I am blessed to have met you.

  7. Made me sad when I looked at the pictures of the withering plants…I know you worked so hard and were so excited as they grew,,, I just wanted to jump thru the computer and give you a hug…

  8. Your garden has been beautiful to watch. Just re-certified this Dec for my Master gardener here in MI. Think you and Matt should think about becoming Master Gardeners– You see doing the classes and volunteer work is so much like what you are already doing Gardening with Heart!!!

  9. Oh this makes me so sad for you!! I am a pro at killing plants over the winter!! Glad you were able to save some!

    • Aww, thanks tequilacupcakes. I learned my lesson. We’ve had two more freezes and I haven’t lost anything else. I’ll have to put up a picture of “my idea of how to save the plants” vs my gardening neighbor’s. It’s too funny. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. P.S. tequilacupcakes, I can’t get to your site. It says there is no such site. Just a glitch?

  11. You really sound like me. I would be crying over the plants too! 😦 I tried to garden this last spring and it didn’t go so well. We used to grow string beans and zucchini when we were little so I made a little plot for that and threw in some bell peppers for fun. I apparently planted too late and over-watered, I think. The zucchini plants kind of fell over and rotted, and pulling them out I just felt so sad for them. I didn’t even want to thin them when they started coming in because I felt so frickin’ bad to just pull them out!

    Better luck next time! Live and learn πŸ™‚

    • LOL! Thanks Beth. I’m feeling much better now, but I was so upset! Like a little kid!
      Oh, overwatered and planted too late. I’ve done all that before. Every year I learn a little more.
      When I lived in Alaska, I planted everything from seed, watered and weeded constantly and it was in the middle of summer so it got 100% sunshine.
      I still don’t know what I did wrong. Made me so mad!
      I feel bad about thinning them too. Seems like such a waste. But my husband started this thing where we EAT the seedlings that we thin. The guilt just melts away, because we’re so busy laughing. I mean, who eats seedlings, right? πŸ™‚ But they’re like sprouts on a salad, so tender and sweet.
      Yes, live and learn. That’s right!

      • Oh yeah, I remember reading an article on some news site about co-ops and the lady found a way to use EVERYTHING eating leaves and all. It was an interesting idea, but yeah I like sprouts so that’s a good idea! Too funny , but I think that would make me feel better. Throwing them out made my heart hurt! We did get a handful of green beans and watching my nephew try them was too cute! He would go check for more all the time. Then since the garden got him into eating green beans, my sister bought some and threw them out in my garden and told Kieran to go pick them lol. Since he thought they were from the garden, he ate them, from a can or something…not so much! πŸ™‚ I am glad at least he got that experience! πŸ™‚ My sister and I loved the stuff from our garden, we would have zucchini bread all summer!

  12. Pingback: Pulled from the garden next… « G.I. Crockpot

  13. Beth, I loved the story of your nephew looking for beans in the garden! TOO cute.
    I LOVE zucchini bread. BEST EVER. I just put up a recipe for it a few posts back. That sounds really good right now. Girl, you went and made me hungry!!

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