When Mid-April Behaves like February

Two April snow events and near record cold might have you thinking how are the plants and animals going to manage in this crazy spring weather? After one of the warmer winters on record and several days in the 70s already, many plants are currently weeks ahead of schedule and it’s not just the flora, the fauna is also behaving more like late April or early May.

Some Plants Will Be Damaged

Any plant that’s been in the ground since at least last fall will survive the cold. What can happen is flowers and early leaves become blackened from the cold. The trees will then need to push out a new set of leaves, but if things like magnolia flowers are killed you’ll need to wait until next year to hopefully see them again. Spring bulbs and other perennials will live, but again the flowers might be damaged. Pansies should be ok if you put them in the garden already, but here too the flowers might get blasted.

Depending on exactly how cold it gets Tuesday and Wednesday morning will determine the type of damage certain plants sustain. The biggest concern would be for fruit trees which are a cash crop. If the flower buds are open enough they can be killed. If this happens the tree won’t produce any fruit this year.

Bugs, Bees and Hummingbirds

I was shocked to see at least two hummingbirds had returned to southeastern Massachusetts. Several years ago when temperatures fell below freezing in early May my neighbor found a dead hummingbird the next morning that had frozen. We can’t really know what will happen to these early arrivals, but like sea turtles which can become cold stunned and die, it wouldn’t surprise me if these warm weather birds don’t make it.

I was swatting mosquitoes last evening and it’s likely the cold will at least kill off this first generation of them. Don’t worry they’ll be back as soon as the weather warms up again.

Vegetable Gardens and Newly Seeded Lawns

First off it’s too early to seed a lawn, however if the seed was just put down it will likely still mostly germinate when the weather turns warm again. If you went out and bought some seedlings and put them in the ground these might be damaged or killed. While cool weather crops like lettuce, broccoli and Asian greens can survive a cold night, some of the plants sold at a nursery or big box store was likely grown in a greenhouse and therefore the plants aren’t hardened off enough to make through a 20 degree night.

You could cover your plants with inverted pots or use something like a light sheet to protect them. Remember, the sun is very strong so be sure to vent them during the day or you can actually cook them even in cold weather.

Nature is very resilient, more so than some people give credit. While the cold and snow the next few days isn’t welcome by us, the world around us will keep on moving through spring, even if it’s going to feel like winter a bit .longer.

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