4/8/09 Vol. 6 #3

The annual last frost/freeze dance is near.  This morning it was 28 degrees, not cold enough to really do any damage but low enough to get our attention.  The only things out there that could really get damaged are the first tomatoes and 28 degrees is really their point of no return.  But they are inside the little tunnels tucked under an additional layer of row cover.  After the famous Easter freeze of two years ago when we had tomatoes under the same protections and they survived 20 degrees we are a little more relaxed about these last fronts of the year than we used to be.

There are really two major methods of cold weather crop protection covering, like we do for the most important crops and ice.  The ice method that the most of the strawberry growers use requires lots of water, big pumps and sprinkler guns and you still have to stay up all night making sure that it all keeps running.  Once you start to “throw water” you have to keep it up until it begins to melt the next morning.  If you run out of water and or the pump stops you can do more damage than if you didn’t spray any at all.  In high winds, like yesterday evening started with, it is even more difficult to get the water to behave and go where it is supposed to.

We don’t have the capacity to ice protect so we mostly use the third method of protection- we just don’t grow those crops that need it or wait to plant them until it’s safe.  This goes along nicely with my “keep it simple” motto of farming.  It is so easy in farming to make the basic act of growing crops into a wildly complex house of cards that relies on too many artificial supports for it to work.  At best it adds additional work and cost to a crop, in the worst case it can mean total crop loss if the support fails.  Even organic/sustainable growers are lured into the trap by the promise of an extra early crop and maybe a little more money, or a special spray that will “enhance” the crop in some way.  Farming is complicated enough without adding too many additional hurdles.  I am happy with my unheated greenhouses and simple row covers, it’s as high as I want to jump.

Picture of the Week
Warm tomatoes

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