It happens almost every spring – the tomato plants in the garden are going gangbusters – actually everything is going gangbusters – and I am feeling like Super Gardener.
Then there comes that little chill to remind me that winter is not quite over yet. Hah, but I’m prepared for that. My agreement with my food producing friends is that I will protect them, so I diligently get out the row cover.
My family loves to play the guessing game of ‘will it freeze tonight?”. We stare at the starry sky (no cloud cover means cold) and feel the breeze (high winds from the north indicates a night that gets progressively colder).
I’ve learned to always cover no matter what I, or the majority of my family, think. I’ve lost too much over the years. The plants like it warmer anyway, even if they can survive on colder temps.
The worst any of us thought it would be was ‘mild frost’. So the actual hard freeze was little embarrassing.
Row cover will buy you between 2 – 4 degrees Fahrenheit of protection depending on how thick the cover is. I didn’t measure that night, but almost everything under the row cover died.
There were a few survivors. I copied a strategy an old organic farmer shared with me; place 5 gallon buckets full of water next to the plants under the row cover. The water helps to keep the plants warm.
I found you really have to have those buckets close to the plants, and the side of the plant that was closest to the bucket did much better than the side that was further away. Actually the buckets only had a warm zone of about six inches – everything out from that died of cold.
Why mess with buckets and row cover at all?
Well here in Central Texas we have a joke that goes like this; the visiting gardener asks a Texan “when does spring come in this area?”. And the Texan replies, “well, last year we had a really long spring that lasted for almost 48 hours”.
It just gets hot too quickly to get any production if you don’t plant early and plan on the occasional tomato killing freeze to get you.
Yup, life’s tough.
PS: If you want to learn the ultimate in survival food production check out my video “Grow Your Own Groceries’ at www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com
Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of “homegrown food on every table.” Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.