Saturday, March 28, 2009

One last cold snap

The farmers' have been telling us for weeks, "There will be one last cold snap right after we get everything planted." In other words, go ahead and plant on schedule, but be prepared to cover everything up in the event of a frost. And if there's anybody I trust at this point, it's a farmer. As foretold, now that my tomato plants are in, and my green beans plants and spaghetti squash have broken the soil line, both Friday and Saturday nights were scheduled to bring us 40 degree weather (or below). Well, shucks!

So Friday afternoon, after the last of the storm clouds had passed, I trudged outside into a very muddy back yard dragging  just about everything I could come up with to cover a plant. A friend told me milk jugs or even newspaper worked great. I ended up with garbage bags, a tarp, a rubbermaid tub, and some empty pots. Beautiful, right? At this point, all I care about is that it works!

Considering all the plants did just fine last time (right after I put the first four tomato plants in we had a full week of 30 and 40 degree weather), I'm hoping they'll do well again this time for a much shorter cold period (it should be warm again by Sunday). 

So here's the deal - I'm new to this whole gardening thing. What are your secrets to protecting your crops from a potential frost?

14 comments:

Sue said...

Hi Heather
You might want to make a box or two out of old storm windows for those few nights of cold. They work well. I also stuff leaves around my plants for a bit of extra insulation.
We're expecting another 6" of snow tonight. Ugh.

Lisa Sharp said...

I hadn't planted yet. We are getting snow but it's not sticking because it's 37. My great g-ma always says to plant after Easter. Proving right now year lol.

Glenda said...

Hubby uses sheets or thin quilts. He has some wooden stakes laying around the garden that he can easily slide just inside the raised bed, then he lays the sheets or quilts over the stakes and kinda tucks the sheets in around the plants.

It got down to 31 here last night and we'd just got our last garden veggies in the day before -- tomato and sweet pepper transplants -- but we didn't cover the plants last night. I don't know that anything would've stayed on them, the wind was blowing 25-30mph. Everything seems to have survived the cold temps last night just fine, and now today we're back to warmer temps again (but that darn wind is wicked!!).

Heather @ SGF said...

Sue - What a great idea! Unfortunately, we don't have storm windows in the South, but this is a great tip for all you northern readers! Thanks!

Lisa - That's what a lot of people say here too - plant after Easter. That's what a lot of people with smaller gardens do, but most all of the farmers at the market can't wait that long to get seed into the ground. If they waited, they'd lose about 4-6 weeks of good planting weather (it's always really warm here - 80's for weeks) and then bitter cold for only a few days). It's easier to plant and then cover, vs wait and shorten the season.

Glenda - You're SO right about the wind. The only reason my tarp and trash bags stayed put was the bricks I put on top. I've heard several people mention the use of sheets. Sounds like a good plan!

I checked on the plants today (it got down to about 36 last night) and everything looks good so far. We just have to make it through one more night and we'll be back into the high 70's.

Chile said...

Sheets are commonly used here. The weather forecasters on the news are good about giving frost alerts, too.

I picked up several sheets from a thrift store for protecting plants, and use cement blocks as anchors.

Heather @ SGF said...

Chile - that seems to be the standard. We used bricks because we had so many laying around the backyard from when the house was originally built. I think the key is to keep the area contained.

I uncovered everything today - we're back to warmer weather. Looks like the plants did just great. Yeah!

Chile said...

It seems slightly ironic that I covered some plants of my own last week - with shade cloth - due to a hot snap.

sabakose said...

Glad all your plants did well. You know, we headed out of town for the weekend and I hoped my plants would make it. I had NO idea that it was supposed to get down to 31 degrees until after we were on our way. :-( So, upon our arrival back home today - first thing, went to check on my plants.

The basil is the only thing that was completely toast, black leaves and all. I'm hoping that it'll grow back, but it's very very sad right now. Also, a couple others are struggling. Ah well ... they enjoyed the good Dallas sun today! :-)

Sandra :-D

sunflowerchilde said...

I live in northern California, and I wouldn't dream of planting summer veggies yet. If it warms up early this year, I'll do mid-late April, otherwise maybe I'll wait until May. I don't like having to wait until late summer to get the veggies, but I buy from the farmer's market before then. I just know from experience that summer plants put in after the ground warms up tend to do better in the long run than plants that are planted earlier, even if you do try to protect them.

On a side note - I've done a lot of water-bath canning and I want to get into pressure canning. I'd be interested to read more about your adventures with it. Like, did you use recipes you already use, or did you need some specifically for canning? And do you feel like it's a better option, energy-wise, than freezing? We already have a chest freezer we're running, so I don't know if pressure canning is such a great idea if I still have space in the freezer. On the other hand, when I need some last-minute dinner, and it's all frozen solid (with no microwave), freezing doesn't seem like the best option.

Heather @ SGF said...

Chile - How hot did you get? We've been in the high 70's (barely touching the 80's) for weeks (other that cold snap). Most of my multiplying onions have flowered as a result. Crops, they are a changin' :)

Sandra - Yeah, I found out the hard way last year that basil absolutely HATES cold weather. This time I knew to cover it. Hope your little darlings survive!

sunflowerchile - Actually, the ground was already pretty warm here. As I mention in my comment to Chile, we've been in the 70's and just touching the 80's for weeks. So the cold snap didn't bring ground temp down much in the 36 hours it was cold. We just had to watch what was above ground. But that is an interesting thing to note. I'll be planting more green beans in the coming weeks. It'll be interesting to see if the ones after the cold snap do better than before. Hmm...

About canning. We decided to go with the pressure canner for several reasons. We were running out of space in the freezer connected to the fridge (I wasn't able to freeze everything I wanted) and were at a turning point.

Freezing is super easy, but it takes time to defrost, it takes constant electricity, and if we lose power, we're going to have to eat everything right away or risk losing it.

Canning, however, would take some energy at first, but we could then stock everything on shelves (which we have plenty of room for, and if the power goes out, we have food immediately handy. I have enough to last us for weeks should anything happen. Sure, we could have a flood and it wash all my jars away, but losing electricity is much more likely.

I don't really follow any recipes per se, but with the canner came a recipe book with canning instructions (pressure and canning time for each of the recipes). When I was going to can my homemade soup (no recipe, just whatever I had on hand), I looked through the canner recipe book and found a couple recipes that were similar. One called for a 75 minute processing time and the other 90. So I always do my veggie soup for 90 minutes to be safe.

I don't know. Maybe I would have enjoyed a freezer, but I don't think so. I absolutely love canning with the pressure canner. And you can give the food as gifts, share them with relatives, or decide at the last minute you'd like some without having to defrost. It doesn't take a lot of energy, I have the jars in the cabinet anyway, and I have plenty of pantry space. It's perfect for me!

Chile said...

We got up to 90 degrees. Then it dropped almost 30 degrees a couple days later.

Heather @ SGF said...

Chile - Sounds like our weather - serious extremes. I'm crossing my fingers that that was the last of the cold. Of course, we'll be cursing the 100 degree days before long. It's always something :)

ttammylynn said...

Yeah--I admit, I have shade cloth over much of my garden, too. The greenhouse has been good for the majority of things to come but the weather may put a crazy spin on things...we'll see...

Heather @ SGF said...

Tammy -yeah, looks like a couple cooler nights headed our way. I'm keeping an eye on things. Might have to cover everything up again Thurs. We'll see...