raspberry patch in morning sun

It’s May in New England. We’ve already had temperatures in the eighties. Our early Easter saw temps in the nineties. It’s oh so easy to get lulled into the belief that spring and summer are truly here and full-scale gardening is safe. Not!

I remember very well the sage gardening advice that my late mother-in-law would dispense when a younger me would press her to put out the tomatoes in early- or even mid-May. She’d dismiss the thought with a wave of her normally not-very-expressive-Yankee hands saying, “Don’t even bother to put out the tomatoes until Memorial Day, you’re just wasting your time!” True…so true.

Last week Brendan stopped by on a glorious eighty-five degree afternoon and pressed me about putting out the tomatoes and squash. “Isn’t it Mother’s Day when you can put them out.” Yes, it’s one of those “M” days in May, but Mother’s isn’t it. Regardless, I relented and he put out four zucchini plants, which I’ve been since covering (Brendan doesn’t live here, he just gardens here) each night as we flirt with temperatures in the low thirties.

As I crawled into bed at 10:30 p.m. last night, I realized that I had not covered the zucchini. So I did what any respectable, caring gardener would do. Put my coat over my pajamas and traipsed out to the back yard to cover the shivering plants, then back to bed feeling moderately comfortable that the zucchini were safe. (Does the “i” at the end of zucchini make it plural, thus making the singular zucchinus?) Didn’t worry about the lettuce, peas, carrots, beets, cilantro, or arugula. They won’t be bothered by a little chill or even a frosting.

What I didn’t think about as I dozed off was the raspberries. They’ve come along nicely since I pruned them a few months ago. They are lush and full of blossoms, ready to bloom. As I padded out of bed at 6:00 a.m., I noticed that the heat had turned on, hmm… must have gotten really cold. Looked out the window at the outdoor thermometer and saw the mercury just about at the thirty-two-degree mark. Looking out the window past the thermometer I saw the raspberry patch and terror struck my soul. The leaves didn’t look frosty, but they looked stiff — or was it my imagination?

raspberries, ready to bloom, dripping with dew, or melted frost?

Time will tell. It was a few hours until I went outside to check on them. (Probably didn’t want to know for sure if the frost had nipped them.) When I did check on them, they appeared fine, just dripping beautifully with dew, or melted frost? I take comfort as I recall that last fall the plants and berries were able to take a light frost better than I would have expected. Let’s hope the same is true for the buds. Let’s also hope that this is winter’s last stand!