Of course the clock is ticking. It’s always ticking. It just seems that this time of year the ticking gets louder when you realize that winter is coming. Obviously, most of the country will scoff at Floridians who use the word winter to describe the months of December through March and in this heat those Floridians will have a hard time even remembering what winter is. Their memory will be compromised in fevered brains as they try to navigate the delirious summer haze of the Target parking lot without having a stroke. It’s easy to forget about frosty mornings when the daily rainstorm has left the asphalt literally steaming. Nevertheless, frosty mornings are coming and even cold hardy crops need to be established before it gets cold. Therefore, we’re planting seeds and we’re planting lots of them.
For some reason (please feel free to explain in the comments section) a forecast predicting temperatures in the mid to upper thirties does not preclude a chance of frost. In the wee hours of Monday, morning Jack Frost decided to pay a visit to our garden. Fortunately, most of our winter crops were unfazed, however, many of our tomatoes and eggplants were traumatized and in some cases obliterated. What is really strange, though, is how the damage wasn’t across the board. Like a tornado that wipes out one house and leaves another across the street unfazed, frost found the plants that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes just a few feet was the difference between “no damage at all” and “I think that slimy blob used to be a tomato plant.” Microclimates are real.
The embarrassing part is that the reason our tomato plants were in these pots to begin with was to prevent this very scenario. The upper grades have been discussing (at length) the “window of opportunity” that gardeners have to grow tomatoes successfully in Central Florida. They have learned that most tomatoes will not “set” fruit once temperatures consistently are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that happens pretty early around these parts and as is painfully obvious; we can still get frost in February. This leaves precious little time to grow a plant that is big enough to produce flowers before it gets too hot. That’s why we start our tomato seeds in pots, so that we can get them going before Christmas. We leave them outside when its warm and bring them inside…. when … we ….uhm…have.. a…um, you know……. a frost.
Oh well, the reason we are doing this is to learn, right? At least grace was extended and we still have many survivors. We’ll be watching the local weather a bit more closely and will eventually put these lucky ones in the ground, that is after Jack Frost has left town for good.