The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Slowing down fruit-tree flowers

Apple and pear flower buds

Although hard freezes once the garden year starts are always a little dicey, I'm actually glad a cool spell came along to slow spring down. 21 degrees now while apples vary from silver tip to green tip and pears from green tip to tight cluster means a small thinning effect on our hypothetical fruit crop. 21 degrees when flowers are fully open would mean yet another year with no fruit.

Early spring peas
The vegetable garden is similarly unfazed by the return of winter. Baby peas from my second planting are just barely poking out of the ground, and I actually didn't even cover them before the predicted cold spell. I was counting on the fact that the young plants were very close to the earth, which had been warmed well by weeks of summery sun. Sure enough, both the uncovered baby peas and the larger transplanted peas under cover came through the cold snap with flying colors.

Spring strawberry growth

In one part of the garden, though, I'm speeding things up rather than letting the cold slow things down. About a month ago, I erected quick hoops atop one row of strawberries. And, at long last, new growth is finally starting to pop up underneath. In contrast, uncovered plants nearby are still largely dormant.

Of course, I could do a lot more if I wanted ultra-early strawberries. A farm down the road keeps their plants under row-cover fabric all winter and uses black plastic mulch to keep down weeds and heat the soil around their roots. As a result, their fields are already blooming...and in great danger from hard freezes like this. A combination of sprinklers and row cover fabric will probably keep their crop safe. Still, I prefer to walk the middle road and speed my strawberries up a bit...but not too much.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Interesting. I was just looking at my strawberries today wondering if i should move off some mulch cover..hoops would be good... this time of year between winter and planting, the chickens are completely free range, so uncovering the berries without protection would encourage too much scratching i think.
Comment by Deb Thu Mar 24 00:19:36 2016

Considerations like this really make you appreciate the problems pioneers had when there was no PigglyWiggly to back them up in a bad crop year.

This has been an unusual winter for weather because we have an unusually strong El Nino situation in the Pacific. The USDA recently changed their growing zone map. My WI property moved from 4 to 5 and I didn't have to lift a finger! The weather there, however, hasn't noticeably changed in reality. I wonder how many gardens will fail if people plan by the new map?

Comment by doc Thu Mar 24 07:51:08 2016
Yeah, I'm feeling more and more like zone maps are relatively useless for fruit trees as our climatic extremes swing further in both directions. They probably do give a semi-okay view of first and last frost dates though.
Comment by anna Thu Mar 24 18:46:25 2016

Don't worry about dewormers vis-a-vis soil health. They inhibit a membrane transport protein in invertebrate muscle & nerve tissue, not present in vertebrates nor bacteria/fungi. The little bit scattered about in the goat droppings would have minimal effect on invertebrate populations in the soil. Being organic,the molecules would probably serve as food for bacteria, metabolized away by them.

Please don't go TreeHugger on us, Anna. Your scientific approach to loving the environment has been so refreshing!

Comment by doc Sat Mar 26 07:07:11 2016

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