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The Great Pea Rescue


                 Saturday, April 8th was a gorgeous day. It was sheer joy to be outdoors. The sun was shining, the birds were singing; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As the evening settled in, it became a bit colder. I went to bed looking forward to another beautiful day. I awoke to find the entire world covered in a four inch layer of snow.

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My garden was covered in snow.
My garden was covered in snow.
The small pea plants were buried.
The small pea plants were buried.
I moved the snow off of the plants.
I moved the snow off of the plants.
I covered the plants with plastic cups.
I covered the plants with plastic cups.
                 This mid-spring snow storm was not a pleasant surprise. My pea plants had been in the ground for three weeks, and I was worried about their survival (peas are supposed to be planted after danger of heavy frost). I surveyed the garden and quickly assembled a plan of action. First, I gently scraped the snow away from the plants. Second, I covered the plants with plastic cups to protect them from snowdrifts, wind, and low temperatures. I then waited until the weather improved and hoped that there would be no damage to the plants. Fortunately, temperatures rose and the snow melted the next day. The pea plants emerged from the ordeal in perfect health.
         Sometimes it is necessary to protect an early pea or bean crop from a late snowstorm (especially if temperatures remain low for a long period of time). The primary danger is that the plants will be crushed under the weight of the snow. The secondary danger is that the freezing temperatures will kill the plants.
                 If you know that temperatures are dropping far below freezing or that a heavy snow storm is coming, it is important to take action before the plants are in peril. Secure plastic cups (preferably transparent) over your plants to protect them from the weight of a heavy snowfall. If you don’t have cups, use some other material (e.g. cardboard or wood). The cups, if transparent, will act like mini greenhouses and will keep the plants at a higher temperature than the surroundings. If you can't find transparent cups, buy cups of a dark color (preferably black). Dark cups will absorb energy from the sun and heat the air and the plant inside. When the cold weather has passed, remember to remove the cups.
                 Remember: if the weatherman warns of a late snowstorm, don’t ignore the warning. Take precautions to protect your plants before the bad weather strikes.

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