Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Wonderland

So, its not a winter wonderland as most people think of it. But for me its more, "I wonder if these plants will make it this winter?"

And thus we've gone the past 2 nights. Saturday night I was awake several times and kept checking the outside thermometer. 37 was as low as it showed. When I went out to do chores, a thin layer of ice sat in an empty hay basket, most likely dew that had frozen. A few pineapples were a bit yellowed, but the tomatoes and peppers still sat perky and green.

Last night I did another round of wondering. Should I have covered anything too? Will the Christmas lights be enough? Should I have tried to save the tomatoes? Woke up to the thermometer reading 34. Doing chores revealed a 1/4" of ice on the rain barrels and the goats' water. The tomatoes and peppers have bit it hard. Pineapples and tangerine trees still looking good though.

My mom gave the kids a nice wagon for Christmas. And I'm very glad. It makes it very easy to protect potted plants. I load them into the wagon and wheel it into the garage at night. In the morning I wheel them back out and never unload them from the wagon. May not be the use my mom intended, but its quite the handy farm tool.

The forecast is bleak. Freezing temps all week. Tuesday night supposed to get down to 27. That means running an extension cord and light out to the pump house. That also means covering the pineapples and tangerines as well as turning on the Christmas lights. I hate covering. Its so much work.

Anyway, for those wondering the best way to protect your plants, don't do as most do and throw a towel over your favorite hibiscus. You'll do more harm than good. First of all, know what needs to be protected. Bananas will die back but rest assured they will sprout again. Same for hibiscus. Staghorn ferns don't like cold, but throwing a blanket over them without getting them down from their perch first is futile. I smack my forehead many times in a winter as I see ignorant plant protection attempts. I follow this method:

1) Water thoroughly in early afternoon. Keeping them well hydrated is giving them their own insulation.

2) Use Christmas lights. On citrus or other grafted trees, wrap the trunk densely with lights. You need to protect the graft area to save the tree. Then throw lights around the central part of the tree. You'll lose some foliage but the tree will survive. Turn on the lights at dark and leave them on till the temp is above freezing. No need to take off the lights during the day.

3) When dipping into the mid 20s, also cover the plants. HOWEVER, they need to be covered from top ALL THE WAY TO THE GROUND! The cover provides a level of insulation. You wouldn't turn on the heat and leave all the windows open, right? Same thing here. Also, if possible, keep the cover OFF all foliage. Wherever the cover touches the plant, those leaves will almost certainly die. Now, I don't have enough stakes and poles for this. I cover as I can because I'm covering to save the plant, not the foliage. Still turn on the lights when covering. Uncover each plant in the morning and water again in the early afternoon.

4) Bring potted plants inside. Covering a potted plant will help, but it being in a pot makes it more susceptible to cold.

5) If dealing with a very large citrus tree, know that that tree has likely seen hard freezes many times and will probably be fine. Don't try to cover the whole tree. That's insane. The best way to protect it would be to wrap the trunk in lights as far up as is feasible and then also cover the trunk with a blanket. If possible, have the blanket tight at the top and tent it out to the ground.

The little farm girl and I recently planted some seeds for our "pretty patch". You know, back when the high was 73. Now I'm biting my nails for them. I brought them inside the house one night but once I saw it was going to be freezing all week, I just left them in the garage. I can have 4 flats of seeds lining my dining room every night and morning for a week. If they don't sprout, we'll try again later.

Homesteading Hubby pulled up the last of the sweet potatoes. They look great. The trick now is where to put them to cure??? Now they're sitting in laundry baskets in the porch with a blanket over them at night. Hope that's enough.

1 comment:

  1. PA winter isn't much better. Had to bring in citrus fruit and onions from the garage. They are now on the enclosed front porch with miminal heat. Have the pump going 24/7 on the pond to keep it from freezing over--but I am not going to attemp living in a house that is 57 with the wind we have had. Hopefully, things will warm up a bit--at least have some sunny days. Hope to see you this next week.