Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Surviving a Hard Frost


A damaged Violetta plant starts to regrow
A good practice for all farmers and gardeners is to avoid thinking they have it all figured out. After all, a good deal of farming revolves around nature's unpredictable whims. We can think proactively and try to prepare for potential changes, but, in the end, Mother Nature often defies our planning.

Case in point: an unforeseen frost and/or freeze occurred late last week that gave Three Plaid's farmers a bit of a scare. Our all-too-human weather forecasters had predicted an overnight low of 36 degrees, which is cold enough to harm some tender plants. With that prediction in mind, we covered our heat-loving crops in the greenhouse with row cover (a protective blanket of sorts that gives 3-4 degrees of added warmth) and transplanted our Violetta Cauliflower into the field (because it was ready to go out and is cold-hardy anyway). The next morning, we learned the low dropped to 28 degrees(!), which meant we had the potential of losing our heat-loving-seedlings --tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, garden huckleberries, and okra --to frost, despite our precautionary use of row cover.

As all farmers should, we tried to focus on possible solutions in case we did lose crops to the cold. We decided that if the seedlings took a hit, we would reseed and plan on having a late season crop. Though far from ideal, having tomatoes and such a little later in the year would still be doable. Needless to say, we braced ourselves and pulled back the row cover in the greenhouse to assess the damage. To our delight, our plants looked as healthy as ever! The 1-2 degrees of warmth the greenhouse provides plus the 3-4 degrees of added warmth from the row cover saved our seedlings from the frost. Our general preventative actions succeeded.

Unfortunately, our newly transplanted Violetta Cauliflower did not fare as well that night -- that hard frost caused widespread damage to our transplants, and, therefore, we prepared for a full crop loss. However, we saw signs of life out there today: the plants are shooting up new leaves. So, if they continue to recover and can grow fast enough before the weather gets too hot, we may have this lovely cauliflower for you in your CSA shares after all!

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