During my recovery from April's knee replacement surgery, my friend Liz brought me a Roma tomato seedling. I placed the sprout in my kitchen's south-facing window. If I lived in a more temperate climate, I would have marched the plant outside and put it into the ground. But I live in Wyoming, where April is still winter. Many of us have turned to the use of high tunnels or cold frames or other sheltering devices to ensure an adequate harvest. But not me. I continue to wait for those frost-free days of late May. Very late May, or even early June.
Two weeks ago, on a rare sunny day, I bought some flowers. I sat out on the porch, repotted them and set them out to enjoy the sun. While I was at it, I repotted the Roma and two cherry tomato plants brought over by my neighbor. The dirt had a calming effect on my throbbing left knee. The sun, a welcome visitor. Still, I knew I was tempting fate to ignore the first commandment of High Desert gardeners: "No outdoor planting until Memorial Day."
True to form, rain and snow and frost arrived in southeast Wyoming this week. I could have hauled the potted plants inside, as I'd already done once. Instead, I pulled out my trusty tarp and covered them. It traps heat and moisture, and keeps snow and frost from the leaves. It's a big tarp -- I can cover the entire garden plot adjacent to my back porch. There was no need as I had kept to the letter of the law and not planted anything in the ground. I did cover the strawberries, But there's really no need, as my strawberries are hardy varieties cultivated at the Ag Dept.'s old High Plains Research Station. These babies can take the snow and ice and, to prove it, keep coming back year after year.
The tarp covered the plants four days and four nights, through a light snow and two overnight frosts and days of rain. I uncovered them Thursday evening after work, the moment I glimpsed the first ray of sun. The weathercasters assure me that the frosts are over, with low temps going down to 40 degrees but no colder. Soon, the usual warm, low-humidity days of summer will take over and I can put away the tarp.
This morning, the sun is out. Soon, so shall I be.