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

What came of our spring comeuppance?

Baby strawberriesI'm sure you're all itching to hear what came of the forecast hard freeze last week.  When I woke up Thursday morning, the frost was so thick, the leaves of the kitchen peach were bowed down under the weight, but I'm a bit confused about how cold it actually got.

I love to record daily highs and lows, but I've been operating without a good thermometer for a year now.  The problem is that the cheap ones we'd been buying at Wal-mart die in a year or less, and I just couldn't talk myself into purchasing another throwaway product.  (If you can recommend a high Blackened kiwi leavesquality thermometer that records highs and lows, can handle outdoor conditions, and lasts several years, I'll snap it right up!)

Mark had a little interior thermometer, so I set that out on the golf cart for the night since there was no chance of rain.  At 7:30 am, I checked the thermometer, and it read 14 degrees Fahrenheit!  Since the forecast low was 26 and the air didn't fell all that frigid, I just didn't believe it --- surely the reading was a sensor malfunction.  So I pulled out a mercury thermometer and set it on the golf cart as well.  My analog backup also read in the teens (19 this time, probably because the sun was already beginning to warm the yard by the time I read it half an hour later).

Young peachIf we really had a low of 14, everything should have died.  I would have expected the lettuce I left uncovered to be nipped at around 25, and the uncovered onion seedlings to die soon thereafter...but they all looked untouched.  My peaches also seem to have come through virtually unscathed, if these pretty fuzzy ovaries are any indication.

On the other hand, strawberries (even under row covers) were severely nipped, with lots of blackened centers.  Any kiwi leaves that survived the previous frost were completely decimated, as were mulberry and grape leaves.  In the woods, spicebush leaves were moderately damaged and the Japanese stiltgrass seedlings turned brown (yay!), but everything else looked okay.

Strawberry flowersMy best guess is that the cold temperatures were very spotty.  They probably rolled down the holler toward us, sticking to the low points (where the strawberries live) and passing by the peaches (which are on more of a slope).  Maybe cold air pooled just uphill of the trailer, leading to the remarkably low reading on the golf cart outside our front door.

I'm just glad the damage wasn't more extreme.  The strawberries that had grown into little fruits look like they're going to make it, and the plants are already opening up new flowers.  Even the badly nipped kiwi has green buds.  Looks like we survived dogwood winter nearly unscathed.

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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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Thanks for the post on this - I was pretty uneducated about what actually happened in the strawberry making process. I went out and looked at mine because I had seen some dark spots and now see fatter yellow centers - duh!! which will be the berry and some centers that are darkened and not going to make a berry. Still had pretty white flowerettes so I thought I was cool!! Fortunately not too many are like that and maybe it is another reason other than frost nip?
Comment by Jayne Wed Apr 18 10:08:39 2012
Jayne --- I'd say your blackened centers are from frost, but as long as you have some yellow centers, you'll get berries. Maybe fewer of them, but if so, they'll probably be bigger. If you do have another freeze warning (we do for Sunday, I believe), you might throw something over the berries just in case.
Comment by anna Wed Apr 18 11:03:22 2012

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