Cold weather coming! Every farmer and gardener is scrambling now. It’s like a drill on and aircraft carrier, you know it’s coming but really don’t want to have to do it. It happens every spring but this year is more extreme than most with the record 80 degree days and warm 50 and 60 degree nights. They say we are going to have four nights below freezing (Thursday through Sunday) which is also more extreme than the usual two. Now most of the crops out there in the field are cool season types that can take a light freeze so we are not worried about them. It is the flowering and fruiting crops that most of us are trying to protect. I know the strawberry growers will not get much sleep the next week, staying up all night either waiting for the temperature to drop low enough to start the irrigation pumps or trying to keep them running. They spray water over the plants and as that water freezes is releases heat to the plants and flower buds which keeps them from being damaged. I know it is counter intuitive but thermodynamics always was to me. They have to keep the water flying until it starts to melt again. It is an even harder job when the wind is blowing, which it is supposed to do with some vigor.
For us we cover what we can with floating row cover, maybe several layers and hope that is enough. We don’t have enough water or the equipment to do the overhead sprinkler system the strawberry growers do and our crops are too tall anyway. The blueberries have been blooming for weeks and should have set enough fruit that won’t be damaged unless it drops really low. The viburnums which are up to twelve feet tall will just have to stand and bear it. If we sprayed water on them we would do more damage with broken branches from the weight of the ice than the blooms are worth. The two crops we are most concerned about are the tomatoes in the sliding tunnels and the dutch iris in the field. The tomatoes we will drape the floating row cover over the tops of their trellises as a second insulating layer under the greenhouse plastic. Batten down the plastic as best we can and usually we are good down to the low 20’s. The iris are another level of difficulty. Tall, spindly and spiky we will have to construct some kind of structure that will support the row cover and then try and hold that suspended fabric on in the high winds, makes thermodynamics sound easy.
Of course the rest of the farm work must go on. We now have over 100 beds planted (an acre plus) and have been busy getting them weeded and setting up irrigation. We should finish that up today and give everything a good drink. Watering them will not only reduce their stress heading into this cold but wet soil holds more heat than dry soil so it will also help everything through the cold snap. We moved the 800 tomato seedlings up to their larger four inch pots. We start them in smaller containers so we can get good germination and then move up only the best looking plants. It is tedious work especially considering there are eighteen different varieties that one could easily miss label! This batch of tomatoes will go out into the field in just over two weeks.