False alarm was fair warning that frost is coming


I’m not much for planning or organization, so I greet the arrival of the autumn’s first cold temperatures with an evening of hysterical dashing about to get my tender plants out of the cold. This year, the one-night skid into the 30s sent me into my usual tizzy. But the false alarm has also given me a push to actually make a plan to move my garden indoors this year.

In my defense, we have been out of town in a warmer city where we sweltered in near-triple-digit heat. Once we got back to Port, there were red tomatoes on the vine and ripe figs on our trees, and for heaven’s sake it was September. Frost wasn’t on my mind. Then I looked at the long range weather forecast.

The local forecast had a low of 37 degrees last Saturday night. I could handle that. I could wrap the old weeping fig in burlap, drape the mandevilla in the same and let everything else take a chance. At worst they’d be unhappy, not dead. Most of them are in pots sitting on our driveway, so they’d benefit from heat stored in the concrete.

Then I checked the National Weather Service forecast. Yikes! The cold was coming Friday night and the low was going to be 32. That evening the car was backed out of the garage and the fig wheeled inside. I hadn’t trimmed it of its excess summer growth, so it was too tall to fit. We leaned it against the wall and dashed out to grab the rosemary and purple passion flower. It was too late to dig up the bananas, so flannel sheets were draped over them and pillow cases slipped over the mini-bananas. A sheet covered the mandevilla, which was full of red flowers. I grabbed the green-roofed bird house and hoped the local forecasters knew more than the national folks.

Everything was fine in the morning since the local forecast was correct. But a quick survey revealed I’d completely forgotten the pots of ginger growing at the back of the garden. And containers of tender succulents were hidden among the potted begonias. All of them seem fine despite my neglect, but I felt pretty foolish.

The weather has since warmed up. That one cool night is a notice, however, that I’d better get going and clean out the plant room in the basement, check and replace any blown-out grow lights and make a list of what needs to come inside so the ginger isn’t forgotten.

To do that I need to decide what I’m going to keep. My lantana plants appear to be worth saving, and so do the big ‘Black and Blue’ salvias. The pineapple sage can go and maybe one of the blue passion flowers, too. What needs warmth inside and what can survive in the colder garage? I’ve been lucky to get a warning. I need to take advantage of the reprieve and make a plan.

The forecast looks okay for the next week or more, so I’m making a list and checking it twice, and if I don’t get the same results as Santa I’m determined to have an easier time this year saying goodbye to the outdoor gardening season. No last-minute midnight forays through the garden with flashlight in hand searching for plants. No cars outside in the cold because the garage is full of plants. I’m going to stage an orderly retreat into the house this year. This time will be different — I’ve had a warning and I swear I’m taking it seriously.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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