Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last Frost Date

My husband is a gardener. It is probably his favorite pastime, so much so that when the weather
started to get warm here in East Tennessee, he couldn’t help but get out there
and dig in the dirt. Despite my lame
but practical last frost date warnings, he tilled the ground and planted the
tomato, pepper, green bean, and melon seeds before the first of April. I’m a stickler for the last frost date rule
and, in our region, it’s mid-April. I’m
in charge of the front of the house, the non-vegetable-bearing area, and it
will not be planted until the end of April. I don’t take chances. My husband
did and he paid the price. Unfortunately so did I.

With the knowledge of the impending low temperatures, my
husband prepared to winterize the garden last Thursday. He took the kids outside and let them
help. They gathered sticks from around
the yard and put them in the ground. I
was still sick at this time so I stayed inside, snoozing contentedly on the
couch. I might have at least taken a
peek out the backdoor if I had any idea what my husband’s garden winterization
plan was.

Protecting plants from frost is not usually a pretty
business and I didn’t expect our backyard to be any exception. There are usually a couple white or yellow
sheets involved and a tarp or two. Armed with his extreme thriftiness and exhausting ingenuity, my husband
decided to raid the six or seven Rubbermaid containers marked “Goodwill” in our
shed. He covered sections of the garden
in sheets from the seventies, one of them a pastel gingham print that every
little girl of the seventies had on her bed. Over each of the pepper plants was draped a T-shirt, laid carefully atop
two strategically placed stakes in the ground. Taken as a whole, especially considering the sheer size of our garden,
this was enough to make the punch line of a joke on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour
but the tomato plants, well, they were the icing on the cake. Each tomato plant was inside a wire cage and
there were five of them. Each cage was
dressed in two T-shirts, one on the top part of the cage and one on the
bottom. Atop each cage, in the neck
hole of the top T-shirt, sat a pair of boxer shorts that my husband wore 12
years ago or a button-down shirt from 1995. The tomato plants looked like stubby totem poles with empty limp
armholes hanging down the sides. Each
T-shirt was a reminder of some event or time period from our youth. There was the Grateful Dead Tour T-shirt
from 1993, the 4-H Memorial Camp Staff shirt from 1996, and the ocean scene
shirt from my Green Peace days of the early nineties. Ah, sweet youth and randomly T-shirt-clad winterized tomato
plants. It’s my life, for better or for
worse. I’m including a couple of
pictures because words cannot do the garden justice. Enjoy.




  1. Just to enlighten the rest of your readers, this stuff skips a generation, Sean's Grandfather on my side is the gardener that he caught the affliction from. I haven't told my Dad about the great cover-up yet, but, knowing Grandpa R.P., when he does find out about the frost-proofing, he will be thrilled that he finally got someone to pass the green thumb on to, even if it looks a little blue from the cold. Later this year, you'll be bragging about the fresh produce, and, I'll be swipping fresh ripe tomatoes from Dad's patch.

  2. Oh man you should have taken milk jugs or boxes and made faces for the top of the tom. ones! Now the neighbors with the cows are telling their friends about their crazy neighbors!

  3. So I must once again vouch for Julianne's accuracy. The pastel gingham print sheet is in fact the exact same sheet that I had on my bed in the mid-seventies. They were dang good sheets too! If any of you were to be an overnight guest in my home, your bed would most likely be made up with those sheets. Apparently Sean and I both have the gene that compels us to hang on to old things "just in case". By the way, I have already requested that once that sheet is finished with tomato duty it shall be turned over to my care and NOT returned to the Goodwill box.

  4. I too am doing a veggie garden this year. My seeds are going in peet moss containers and will stay inside untill they grow alittle. Frost will be a threat here foe some time now. I skied the past couple days on fresh powder. 6-9 inches have fallen in the mountains every night over the past week.