April 20, 2020

On Again, Off Again: Frost Cloth


Can we just talk about the weather for a minute? Hey—don’t roll your eyes! This is a farming blog, after all. Weather factors in to everything!

So, as to be expected in April, we have had some snowstorms. I grumble about those, but they melt off fairly quickly, and here in the desert—any water is good water, usually.

What I hadn’t expected this month was the super low night-time temperatures we’ve been having. I’m talking January-esque temperatures! There have been 2 different nights that we have gotten down to 15 degrees. Cold enough to kill a lot of plants. Several more nights have been in the low 20’s.

Mother Nature makes a rotten business partner! So what can you do to anticipate and plan for her mood swings?

First up—only plant things in the spring that can handle spring weather! All of the plants I’ve got out there right now are cold hardy annuals—they don’t mind a light frost, and laugh at a snowstorm. (Well, I assume they’re laughing on the inside.) Any warm weather lovers like tomatoes or basil are going to take a lot more work to keep alive if planted before nights have warmed up reliably.

Secondly, protect what you’ve got. While my snapdragons do fine with overnight temps in the mid-20’s on up, if it’s going to be colder than that, they need some help! One thing I’ve gotten on board with this year is frost cloth—specifically, Agribon-30. It’s all the white up there in picture, if you didn’t catch that already. Frost cloth keeps your plants a couple of degrees warmer than the forecast. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can be the different between slimy, frost-nipped plants, and healthy happy ones. Believe me.

A few of things to be aware of if you’re using frost cloth:

  1. It lets rain through, but if you get snow on top of it, it can crush your plants. Rain—YES. Snow—NO! (Hey, that’s kind of catchy. Let’s make it into a rap! Or…you can do that on your time. Carry on!) I left it on through a rainy day last week, because the following night was going to get very cold again, but the one day it snowed I was out there pulling it off.
  2. If your daytime temps get above 50 degrees, your little plantlings can get too hot under there, and that also will not be good. Off it comes.
  3. It can be doubled up to provide even more protection, which is what I’ve done on those super cold nights.
  4. It is quite difficult to put on by yourself if there’s any sort of breeze blowing. Just be forewarned.
  5. Don’t waste your time with Agribon-19. It’s as thin as tissue paper and rips very easily, while not providing very much protection for your plants.

I am happy to report that nearly all of my plants survived our super extra cold nights so far this month! Have I been taking frost cloth off and on far more than I ever wanted to? Yes. Have I protected my investment from the wild swings in temperature? Also yes. The extra hassle of putting on and taking off the frost cloth has been worth it.

As a sidenote: I didn’t cover up anything that wintered over and they all also survived. So my parsley, Bells, the perennial cutting beds, bulbs—nope. I figured they’ve already been through a lot worse than this. They can take it!

I would love to get a cold frame at some point to help in these “shoulder seasons.” Another project for another day.

April 13, 2020

Time to Farm

Well, hello there! It has been a long month, hasn’t it? Since I last wrote, the coronavirus has swept through our nation and shut down all kinds of businesses in its wake. Including mine. My county issued a Public Health Order last week (seems like a long time ago!) asking all nonessential businesses to shut down. Not demanding—quite yet.

I had a hard decision to make. On the one hand, flowers are essential to me. On the other hand, I was having to go here, there, and everywhere to a) purchase the flowers and b) deliver them. I guess what tipped the scales towards “closed” for me, though, was that I’m doing this out of my home. There is really no way to guarantee that surfaces are sterilized. Not when I have my 2 year old climbing up to help and other children coming in and out every few minutes. Also, my husband works in the medical field, so the chances of him being exposed and then possibly bringing it home are higher than either of us would like to think about.

This one of the last ones I delivered last month, prior to shut-down.

So…until my temporary shut-down, I actually had taken 2 or 3 different orders from my Google listing and delivered them. That was fun while it lasted. I also have at least 2 people wanting to sign up for a spring CSA subscription (yay!), but I have told them we would just have to keep in touch on that. Here’s hoping I can start back up in time for that goodness.

Even though my floral design work has stopped for now, I have been using any and all extra time FARMING! It has felt good to get back out there and get my hands in the dirt again. I am happy to report that I have had some success with seed-starting this time around, as well. YAY!! I’ve got 2 trays full of forget-me-nots that I just potted up from 2” blocks to 4” peat pots today, in hopes of Mother’s Day sales, along with another full tray of petunias, and a smaller one of pansies for the same purpose.

I also have ammi hardening off, and rudbeckia getting close to being ready for that. I’m thinking maybe one more week for the rudbeckias and they should be big enough to put outside.

Just today I started 6 more small trays of various and assorted flowers: orach, more rudbeckia, 2 types of phlox, statice, and dahlias.

I also bought a whole bunch of starts from Plant & Grow Nursery in Clearfield. I had been debating about buying starts, but in the end, they had a great sale (50% off retail!) and I just went for it. So I have them to thank for my 2nd cool weather succession planting, which ended up filling 3 rows! One whole row of Ammi ‘Visagna Green’ (there were more than I expected of that one), Madame Butterfly snaps, 3 varieties of scabiosas (Red Velvet, Candy, and Raspberry Scoop,) and 2 varieties of dianthus (Amazon ‘Neon Rose’ and Amazon ‘Rose Magic’).

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to put everything that I’m currently starting, but in the past I have always had bare stretches, so if nothing else, these can fill in all the bare spots out there. Although, I do believe I will have room for maybe 2 more long flowerbeds to fill up.

Other than farming, I have been doing about the same thing as you, probably: homeschooling my kids, hardly leaving my house for any reason, trying to get outside every day for some fresh air and sunshine. Keeping my distance and becoming even more socially awkward than usual with those who do want to chat (from 6 feet away, of course).

Here’s hoping we can get back to more normal life soon!

How are things with you?