freeze survival report

Had an exciting morning Thursday. We had our first hard freeze in 5 years overnight and woke up to find we had no water. We had forgotten to leave water running overnight – a basic precaution and a real bone head move on my part. So I bundled up and headed to the pump. That’s the only place where we have exposed pipe and the most likely source of the trouble. No obvious split or broken pipe so I brought out the hair dryer and started heating the pump and the plumbing. Within about a minute I spotted a drop of water on a valve I had exercised and then the water started flowing. Dodged a bullet on that one. I’ll hit Lowes today and get some insulation to wrap the pipes but for sure, we’ll leave some water running tonight.

I did a quick walkaround to assess the plant damage. The really tender stuff was nailed big time. That would be items like Elephant Ears, Impatiens, and the Mexican Honeysuckle. I was surprised that the Lantana was hammered. The large viburnum hedge that shields the big bathroom windows looked pathetic. I expected that because they had contracted some kind of fungus or something that caused them to drop leaves and start new growth. My game plan was to cut them down dramatically in March so that will be much easier to do with all the foliage gone. No guess on the garden since it will have to remain covered for another day or two. I did peak under one corner and saw green so maybe some things will survive.

Final – I waited until Friday aft to post so that I could fully assess the freeze damage in the garden. One pepper plant and the basil are history and 3 tomato plants were burned but still may survive. Everything else came through unscathed. We had quite a bit of frost 3 days running and below freezing temps 2 of the last 3 days so the frost covering did it’s job. The cover cost $70 so it paid for itself with this one usage in terms of the crop saved. The forecast is for 70+ degrees for the next 7 days and without a doubt we’ll pick $70 in veggies over that span.

I wonder what the microbes are thinking – the ones in the compost pile. The compost pile holds a sea of microbes who’s job it is to convert the leaves and sticks into rich, garden soil. I got to thinking about the wide variety of food they encounter in our pile. At certain times of the year it’s jungle clippings, at other times, leaves. Recently it included cow paddies. For the past month or so, it’s been seeing a heavy dose of garden and kitchen castoffs. You cut off the head of a cauliflower or broccoli and the rest of it goes in the compost pile. Ditto radish tops, carrot tops, beet tops – whatever we pick, a fair share goes directly into the compost pile. A steady diet of egg shells and coffee grounds – some first class gourmet coffees. This past week I loaded on a couple bushels of grapefruit rinds and yesterday George added to the pile with a couple bushels of orange rinds. So one day a microbe is chomping on a maple leaf; the next, a cabbage leaf; and now a heavy duty load of citrus. I have a mental image of a microbe sending out a signal to his buddies that he found a stash of Dunkin Donut coffee grounds. Bet they hate it when we dump a load of fireplace ashes in with the tasty stuff.

If the mix is high in woody material, it can take 6 months to break down. In the case of garden waste, it’s gone in under a month. The surprising thing is that it never smells. You’d think it would have a landfill aroma but somehow the critters render it quickly into an odorless pile of sweetness. I never toss in any fish parts – those are directly buried in the garden, maybe to feed or kill the nematodes, who knows. If I were a nematode used to eating on the roots of squash and tomato plants and you dropped in a fish carcass, I’d head to some other garden. The other thing that kind of surprises me is that when the compost is ready for distribution in the garden, there are loads of red worms in the mix. Where did they come from? I’m talking about a compost pile that is roughly 12′ x 6′ x 3’H that a few months prior was alive and well. We create and use about that much compost twice a year so as you might guess the garden is getting deeper and deeper in organic material – in affect, it’s changing from a ground level garden to a raised garden.

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