Testing My Optimism

I suspect most — if not all — gardeners are optimists. They have to be. Planting a garden is an act of faith. Lots of stuff can go wrong. A pessimist wouldn’t waste time and money on near certain failure.

Gardening is seasonal. In my old Kentucky home (USDA Hardiness Zone 6), the garden went dormant from November until February or later. I’d spend December and January cleaning up flower beds, browsing plant catalogs, and dreaming about the coming seasons.

Then I moved to Athens (USDA Hardiness Zone 8) where something is in bloom year-round. Adjusting to the long, hot summers and wonderfully mild winters took time. Figuring out what would and wouldn’t grow was a process. Many plants were sacrificed.

Plants with nice flowers or attractive foliage are my favorites. A colorful garden makes me happy — especially in winter. I’m obliged to throw in a few vegetables just because. Or maybe it’s mandatory. I forget.

A few years ago, I started increasing the space devoted to veggies in my fall/winter garden. Encouraged by success, I added still more vegetables. Finding quality plants in late summer is a challenge, so I grew my own from seed this year. The difference is phenomenal. I’ve never seen such gorgeous plants.

Enter Mother Nature. A cold front promising to bring the lowest temperature we’ve seen in at least five years is heading our way. Rather than dipping below freezing for an hour or two early in the morning, the Mercury is expected to stay below freezing for a day or two.


In previous years, I did nothing and the plants in my sheltered garden survived dips into the mid-20s with no apparent harm. In addition to having gorgeous plants this year, there are many more of them. Doing nothing was not an option. I had to try.

Covering everything with floating row cover wouldn’t be enough. Mulching with straw would help. Scattering empty pots throughout retains a little heat and keeps the cover from weighing down the plants. Straw is likely to contain weed seeds and sucks up nitrogen as it decomposes. Before putting the straw down, I spread preemergent weed killer and 10-10-10 fertilizer. I plan to cover the row cover with sheets when the temperature falls below freezing.

Will it be enough? We shall see. As ever, I’m optimistic.

4 responses to “Testing My Optimism”

  1. I always consider it a test of how lazy I want to be. I can be lazy now (and do nothing) and pay the price of having to reseed or whatnot, or I can try to mitigate damage by all kinds of methods. I used black 5-gallon pots upside down over some of my plants one year. That worked pretty well, but you have quite an extensive collection to protect. I love your four-footed “inspector/supervisor”, lol. Good luck, I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

    • Thanks! I’m happy to report that most of the veggies survived the cold snap. Thanks for stopping by!