Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dreaded freeze

We have been experiencing very strange weather this year. First we had a record-breaking cold winter last year, then a record-breaking warm spring and summer, then record-breaking warm fall, with record-breaking drought.

Now we are having record-breaking cold this early in December with overnight freezes ! We normally only experience occasional frost during mid January !

Last night the temperature must have dipped to well below freezing. This morning I took these pictures of icicles hanging from several plants.

Ice on the carissa (natal plum)

Ice on the sapodilla

We are expecting freezing temperatures again tonight. Only time will tell which plants will die as a result. So far, it looks like the bananas, sanchezias, some of the papayas .... Luckily I brought my little nursery inside the garage and will keep them there again tonight. I've been growing some of these plants for 3 or 4 years and can't risk loosing them. These include blue grape, dragon fruit, grumichama's, prickly pear, cycads, starfruit, various aloes...

My heart goes out to all the farmers all over Central and South Florida who will be devastated by this early frost. In St. Lucie county the damage to citrus crops alone could run in the 100's of millions of dollars.

This week I spoke with a tree farmer that is still recovering from last winter's freeze - he lost more than 2100 valuable palm trees worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I hope and pray all is not lost.

Aloe thraskii update - recovers from crown rot

During the hot humid summer months, my Aloe thraskii that i had been growing for about 4 years suddenly succumbed to crown rot.

I removed the rotten crown and just left it. Shortly afterwards we hit one of the driest spells in recent history.

I suspect the dry hot weather enabled it to completely recover and it started pushing out new growth. It is now busy pushing out flower stalks ! I've never seen an Aloe thraskii in bloom so I am ultra excited. So if you have an Aloe thraskii with crown rot, leave it and it will most likely recover.

Aloe thraskii recovering from crown rot
Unfortunately the timing sucks. We've had the coldest snap since 1937, last week we had close to freezing temperatures and I didn't cover any of my plants, luckily so far it only looks like the sanchezia (as usual) was badly damaged.

Last night we had sub-freezing temperatures, luckily I took the time to cover the aloe with old towels. I didn't have time or material to cover anything else, so now I am waiting to see what will die and what will survive. We are expecting freezing or close to freezing temps again tonight.

Aloe thraskii flowering 2 months after crown rot
Protecting Aloe thraskii against from frost

Gardeners block

I often wonder if my fellow gardeners also sometimes hit a period of not knowing what to write on their blogs.

Its not that nothing has been happening in the garden, it is either I'm too busy with work and family or feel what I've been doing is not of enough importance to tell the whole world about it.

I suspect there could also be more to it, I spent the first 4 years working feverishly - almost every spare moment I had was dedicated to the garden. Then as the vacant space became less and less and I had more and more trouble finding a spot for that new plant, I found myself spending less and less time in the garden and subsequently visiting garden centers or even buying seed less and less. After burning myself out trying to keep up with mowing, edging and gardening, I finally gave in and paid someone to mow and trim.

The summer was also so terribly hot and humid and that made matters even worse. Coupled with our record-breaking heat, we also had record-breaking drought. Last time I heard we were more than 6 inches below normal just since the beginning of October. It is well reflected on my water bill. It has more than doubled in the last couple of months.

To make matters worse, the heat lingered on and on and I felt even less motivated to start preparing the veggie patch. We normally start our "summer" veggies around mid October, but we were still having 90+F days and no rain, so I waited patiently. It finally started cooling down ever slightly by mid November.

I finally got out of my slumber and used the ugly trellis material I removed from the patio to create a "fence" around my new "out of sight and out of mind" veggie patch. I created three planting beds, fertilized with Milorganite.

Then I had problem getting water to it, bought some soaker hoses, laid them out and attached those quick connectors so I can take the garden hose and quickly just clip it in to water the entire veggie garden.

So its not ideal, but at least now I can turn on the kitchen timer, turn on the water and remember to turn it off.

Next step will be to install a poly pipe to take water all the way to the back (about 130 feet), attach it to a multiple manifold so I can still use the hose and/or spigot, attach a timer and forget about it.