daffodils growing in a pot in the snow
(Image credit: Photos by R A Kearton / Getty Images)

I moved from one side of the state to the other about five years ago. This meant a change in USDA plant zones and a learning curve about what and when to plant in my new home.

Cold Winters

My previous home was in an area that was temperate with mild winters and summers, lots of rain, and very rarely snow. Not so my new home. Here we can expect summer temps exceeding 100 degrees F. (38 C.), certain winter snow, and cold winter temperatures, sometimes into the negatives.

I don’t remember when the coldest recorded temperatures were in these last five years but I DO remember one of the latest and shocking cold temps. On March 1st of 2019 we had a temperature of -1 degrees F. (-17 C.) …in MARCH!!! Now this was the nighttime temperature, but the high for the day was 31 degrees F. (-1 C.). That's still below freezing.

Temperatures may still be cool in March, but generally there is an uptick and things are warming -- warming enough that I can often get out and work in the yard getting beds ready for the growing season. Also in March it is not uncommon for some of my perennials to start poking their little green heads up from the soil.

Freezing Damage

So, as you can imagine a frigid temperature in March might cause me much alarm and it did, sort of. I use copious quantities of leaf mulch to cover my plants for the winter, and they were still buried in rotting leaf mulch on that particular day.

By the next day, temps had warmed a degree or two and by March 16th, we had a daytime temperature of 50 degrees F. (10 C.). By March 20th it was 64 glorious degrees F. (18 C.) with our first nighttime temp above freezing at 36 degrees F. (2 C.). Phew.

All of my plants made it through the cold just fine, with the exception of an occasional perennial, of which I lose at least one per year.

The moral of the story is always be prepared for sneaky Old Man Winter. We might have a warming trend and then bam! Take this year for instance. Temperatures were warming nicely in March and then we had a snowstorm from the 11th into the 12th.

So even if I am absolutely itching to start removing mulch to see who is coming up, I need to mentally slap myself and remember the March of 2019 and 2022. Leave the mulch alone! Go read a book.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.