Alan Branhagen was tempted. He actually thought about planting tomatoes and peppers.
It had been a fairly warm spring, he reasoned. And, like everyone else, he wanted to get outside and get in the garden.
“But then I started thinking, ‘Something’s not quite right about planting so early,’ ” he said.
So he stuck with the stuff he knew wouldn’t get zapped by the cold — pansies, violas, kale.
Lucky for Branhagen, the director of operations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, he won’t be rushing to bring in pots of Gerbera daisies or cover garden beds of peppers and tomatoes like many of us.
It looks like we’re going to get a taste of a true Minnesota spring, with temperatures diving below freezing for much of the state.
A frost isn’t likely to cause damage to trees and shrubs, even those in bloom. And bulbs should weather the weather just fine.
But if you’ve gotten a head-start on the season, there may be cause for concern.
Pansies, those early spring favorites, typically can take temps into the upper 20s. If you’ve planted some pansies in the garden, don’t worry. But depending on the forecast lows for where you live, you may want to cover pansy pots or bring them into a garage or porch.
Garden perennials, just reemerging now, should be fine, too. Recently planted annuals and perennials and those in pots are going to need a little TLC. Use a blanket to cover what you’ve newly planted. Cover pots, as well, or bring in into a porch or garage.
The pandemic has rekindled an interested in growing vegetables. And that’s a good thing. Trying to get a jump on season, however, isn’t such a good thing.
Cold-weather vegetables typically started from seed (peas, radishes, carrots, arugula, kale, beets and lettuce) don’t mind the cold. There’s no need to worry — or cover.
The same goes for Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, most of which we plant as seedlings.
But some of our most popular homegrown veggies are tropical plants. That means you might be in trouble if you’ve already planted tomatoes and peppers.
“If you don’t cover them, they’ll be mush,” said Branhagen.
When covering plants, he recommends a thick blanket or one specially designed to protect plants. (Many garden centers sell frost blankets that come with cold ratings.) Don’t use plastic, he said. “That just makes things worse.”
Oh, and for the record: The average last frost date is May 10.
Connie Nelson • @StribCNelson