A late spring snowstorm is about the last thing a gardener needs or wants. However, they do happen, as much as we wish that they didn't. The gardener has tools, though, to help protect the early spring garden so it keeps on producing even after a snowstorm.
Among the uncertainties the gardener faces is the weather. Even if you have a great idea of what the weather has been like in your area over the past couple decades, it doesn't mean that a late snow storm can't or won't happen, causing damage. So how do you protect your early spring garden from a late snowstorm?
Many gardeners do want to get their cold weather crops in the ground as early as possible. Plants like peas and lettuce tend not to grow well once the temperatures heat up. Further, you can't even rely on the calendar. For instance, in Oregon during the last decade, there have been several snowfalls well into June, and a snowstorm even later is unusual but not unheard of.
Generally, the earliest plants to go into the ground are those that are hardy. For these, a light snowfall causes little damage. A heavier snowfall, though, can freeze or crush the developing plants. For some of these, such as lettuce and radishes, the easiest thing to do is to wait for the snow to melt and to just replant. The reason is that the seeds germinate quickly and they grow to harvestable size quickly.
However, peas, beans, or crops that require a longer growing season such as melons, tomatoes, squash, and such, take longer to become established. These need to be protected, especially against the cold. Luckily, there is a fairly easy way to do this.
Start collecting plastic milk jugs, and have friends and neighbors collect them for you as well. If a snowstorm or cold weather is forecast, cut the bottoms out of the milk jugs and place these over the tender plants. These will protect the plants from both snow and cold, and if you already drink milk, there is no additional expense.
Even coffee cans offer some protection for the plants against the snow.
For an entire row, clear plastic can also be used, though you will need to set up some sort of framework so the plastic doesn't get weighted down on the plants. In fact, if possible you don't want the plastic to be touching the plants if you can help it, since the cold temperatures can freeze the leaves.
Sandwich bags can even be used for budding flowers or bushes like lilacs. The plastic coverings should be removed as soon as possible to allow the plant to breathe. However, the plastic can act like a greenhouse, so the plants can actually flourish even if it is snowing.
The key is to keep the snow off the plants and to give them a pocket of air to insulate them. Except for cold hardy crops, tender young plants can die quickly when exposed to the snow.
There is simply no way to adequately predict what the weather is going to do from one year to the next. Guessing and hoping for the best, safest time to plant either, since many places periodically experience late and unexpected snowfalls. Usually later snowstorms don't amount to much and the snow melts quickly, but it can still cause a lot of damage to developing plants if they aren't safe guarded.
Thankfully, there are ways to safeguard your plants. Better still, the cost is minimal and the methods are easy to employ. It is a lot better to use the tips than to plant everything all over again.