Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring Frozen in Place....Momentarily

The annual Easter freeze arrived in Blackwater last night. It was, as usual for spring and fall frosts, a full moon with clear skies and little air movement, perfect for radiant cooling. We've had this frost (or freeze, even snow in 2007) between April 7 and April 10, annually almost without fail. The recording themometer on the barn shows a low of 26 degrees here at the farm. The white frosting is obvious on the cars, less so on the grass. The early morning sun instantly melts any frost it touches, so you'd have to be up early to appreciate the true cold.

Our outside salad beds, where our poor lettuces had been battered for two days with strong winds, were well watered before sundown and covered
with a light Reemay-type row cover.* Watering raised bed and container plants before a frost offers a little additional stress protection. The water drops release heat as they cool and freeze - that light coating helps prevent dessication of the leaves. The water also protects the roots which are more exposed in raised beds and containers than they would be in ground.

*FYI, after much searching, I finally found floating row cover, which also protects plants from insects such as squash borers and cabbage moths in a useful size (5x50') locally at Anderson's Greenhouse in Newport News.

On the good side of cold weather, I noticed some early season aphids on daylily clumps - perhaps the frost will knock those early insects out. I doubt it however, the aphids will hunker down in the center of the clump where the heat of the plant itself will protect them. (Yes, a growing plant really does release heat!)

In the unheated greenhouse, the temperature sank to the 40's. The trays of seedlings on the benches were tucked into the same kind of light cover. After listening to Dr. Andy Hankins (VSU) talk about farming projects using direct planted,unheated greenhouses (hoop houses), I believe next spring I'll move the benches out and put the seedling flats smack on the floor of the greenhouse, after the ground warms, so that their roots are protected by the warm ground . (sigh) It's just so much easier to work with the seedlings at waist height, rather than ankle height....

1 comment:

  1. Getting things going early is a constant battle with unpredictable variations in the weather. Using hoop houses and row cover can make a big difference. We advocate using Mikroclima row cover inside hoop houses during winter and early spring, then when your seedlings transplanted maintaining the Mikroclima protection using mini hoop houses.
    Check out our website at
    Happy gardening!


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