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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- It can be doubled up to provide even more protection,
which is what I’ve done on those super cold nights.
- It is quite difficult to put on by yourself if
there’s any sort of breeze blowing. Just be forewarned.
- 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.