The opening day of any season at Cox Farms is highly anticipated. Fall Festival, Winter, Spring or Summer, each comes with its own thrill, and every customer and employee has their “fav”. Yesterday was opening day of our spring season at The Corner Market.
When I arrived at the corner a little after 9 am, I was immediately grateful that I brought gloves with me. There is no way to push a shutter button on a camera when your fingers are numb! As I looked around, my mental checklist started: Happy (albeit cold) employees – check; Mulch, soil and composted manure – check; Lovely and colorful ceramic pots and terra cotta pots – check! Wait -where are the plants?
At 9:40 am, a limited selection of flower and vegetable plants arrived from our greenhouses. If you live in the Northern Virginia area, you know what this spring has brought us – a whole lot of cold, wet weather. March came in like a lion and left in the same form. UGH. Fortunately, the greenhouses have provided spring-like conditions through our unseasonably cold spring, so the plants arrived looking perfectly perky. Trays of beautiful lettuces and other cold crops, darling combination planters, early perennials, and a variety of blooming annuals.
Later, I was running errands while wearing my Cox Farms sweatshirt, and a woman told me a very sad story of having already bought two tomato plants. One was surviving in her garage, but tragically the other had been planted in the ground and was now in a pathetic state. Sure enough, many “garden centers” are selling cold-sensitive flowers and veggies that will not thrive if planted now. That doesn’t seem very nice, does it?
Dave’s Garden, a popular gardening community site, offers a very helpful tool here. (Don’t live in Centreville? You can enter your own ZIP code to get frost/freeze statistics for your area.) According to their data, our average risk of frost runs through April 22, and our “frost-free” date isn’t until the first week of May.
What does that mean for us here at Cox Farms? And more importantly, what does that mean for you? For us, it means that we feature cold-tolerant plants in April. We closely monitor forecasts and decide what to bring down from our greenhouses daily, and we cover/shelter frost-sensitive plants when necessary. For you, it means that in early April, you should think twice before buying and planting plants that are not cold-hardy.
Some of our “cold-tolerant” plants enjoy cool weather and lower soil temperatures but cannot handle a hard frost or freeze. We want you to have this information, so we post it on our signs and remind you when you shop. If the extended forecast looks good, we may bring some of the more sensitive plants out beginning in mid- to late-April if it seems safe. Even then, there is always risk involved, because we’re dealing with nature.
When it comes to your garden, do you like to live dangerously? Or are you a “play-it-safe” gardener?