Thursday, June 7, 2018

Frosts in June

The weather in Nova Scotia not only took a dramatic urn for the worst, we've had a sustained freeze of -4 degrees C one night and now patchy frost. It is apparently 1 degree right now though we have ice formed on the windows and plastic of the unheated greenhouses. I am so very grateful that we have Agrobon to use as frost blankets because it does afford some small degree of protection to the plants below and I'm especially grateful that we have a diversified farm with a minimally heated greenhouse.

First, the greenhouse. As some of you know, Steph took the old non-functional oil furnace out of our mobile home (we couldn't use it anyways) and got it all taken apart, repaired and working again. Now it is set up on concrete blocks in the greenhouse with a digital controller and thermostat. The thermostat is at the opposite end from the furnace and is currently set to 3 degrees. Once it gets below that the furnace turns on and heats the place up until the temperature is reading 6 degrees at the far end, then it shuts off again. We're not trying to have a hot house but merely to stop things from getting cold enough to stop growing or suffer frost damage. I think it's well worth the few litres of furnace oil we're using. Last night we kept the frost off the plants and the firnace kicked in twice so it likely ised less than a litre of oil which costs about $1.25. The ducklings, chicks and geese who are using the other side of the greenhouse as their temporary living quarters appreciate the added early morning heat I'm sure too. The greenhouse does hold some measure of heat overnight but by about 4-5am it's getting close to the outside temperature so having the furnace run a few times keeps it just warm enough that the plants appreciate it and as soon as the sun comes over the hill you can see the temperature rise rapidly. I open the door fairly early in the day so that the rise in temperature is more gradual as I think it is better for the plants to go from quite cool to hot more slowly and not over the course of an hour.

Second, diversification. We admire the apple growers and the vineyards around the valley but this isn't a year I'd want to be one. Due to the deep freeze at flowering and budding time, farmers are estimating a 50-75% crop loss for the year. While the plants, vines and trees  will likely recover and night actually do well with a year of rest, the businesses still have expenses and people to pay and now will have limited income for the year. I'm sure the bigger operations have crop insurance but smaller farms, hobby farms and home growers  who lose their income or food supply are basically out of luck. It's not so bad if you've got some extra plants (we didn't plant all our tomatoes, squash and basil thank goodness) and we still have enough time to re-plant beans and corn if we use early varieties that take less time to grow. But of course it delays the veggie boxes again which is really frustrating.

Despite being in a warming period globally I guess weird weather is to be expected. There's a few things we can do such as covering plants, having extra seeds on hand and planting at different times to spread out the harvest and the risk of losing them, and choose different varieties. We found that some tomato varieties were a bit more frost hardy than others.

Time to go bake bread for the farmers market and pack the truck. It's up to 2 degrees now.

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