Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cold tonight and heating the outside air

Around here the temperature rarely goes into the 20s at night.  The record is in the low 20s and we average 21 days per year below freezing for the low.  Last night the forecast was that the temperature would dip below 32 for a full 8 hours and for five of those hours be 28 or below.  Around here, 28 is the magic number because citrus will die back if it's under that temperature.  The full size citrus trees will have some branches die and it will ruin the fruit if the fruit freezes but it won't kill the tree.  For the younger trees, a really cold night can kill the tree.  

There are several ways to protect the trees.  The large farms have wind machines that will stir up the air.  Some even hire helicopters to do the same thing.  You can use smudge pots in which you set afire to keep the area warm.  Some farmers run water.  Small operations will cover each individual tree.  That's what I usually do, cover each tree.

Because of the windstorm that we had on Thursday and Friday people who had trees covered lost the covers.  I didn't have the trees covered for that reason.  But this morning it was cold so in order to protect the trees I got up and turned on the water.  If you wait too long to get the water turned on the pipes freeze.  Not enough to burst them, just enough to block the water from coming to the house, or through the hose.  Usually this happens around 6:30 and will stay frozen until about 8 or 9.  Fortunately for me the water wasn't frozen.  I turned on two hoses and ran the water on the ground around the avocado and the three small citrus trees.  The rest of the citrus: lemon, grapefruit, orange, and kumquat were going to be fine.  The kumquat can withstand 28 degrees once the tree is established.  The orange is large enough that if there's some die-back it won't be a big deal, other than it's got a full crop of oranges on it and I'd hate to lose the oranges. The lemon and grapefruit are next to the chicken coop.  I'm figuring that there must be some heat coming from that!  Also, there are a couple water jugs in the coop so that will help keep the temperature up.

How does running water help things to not freeze?  The water that comes out of the well is 56 degrees.  In order for it to fall to 32 and freeze it has to lose 24 degrees of heat.  That heat will go out into the air so as the water cools the air heats.  All I need is for the air to stay above 28 degrees so running the water will instantly warm up the surrounding air.  After all, I'm turning the "heater" on to 56!  I can turn the water on earlier in the night, once it gets close to 32.  After all, the killer is if it's 28 for any length of time.    

If we aren't going to get any more winds then this week I'll get the trees wrapped. 

Today we did get some chores done.  The grand kids pulled out the rest of the weeds by the blueberries and raked the pine needles up from the next door neighbors front yard.  They then spread the needles around the blueberry plants.  We will be gathering up a lot more pine needles as I'd like to make one of the garden beds more acidic.  Plus, the more pine needles we put around the blueberries the less weeding we will have to do.

I transplanted three peppers into an indoor pot and also one tomato plant.  I'm not sure how well the tomato plant will do.  It's got a couple of little tomatoes on it so hopefully they will ripen up well and we can have fresh tomatoes all winter.  I pulled up all tomato plants because the freeze killed the plants off.  I was hoping to pull the tomato vines up and let the rest of the tomatoes ripen in the garage except they all died back from the freeze.  I was able to pick about a gallon of tomatoes that hadn't frozen and burst. 

The eggplants weren't completely killed off by the freeze but were looking pretty bad.  I pulled one out and replanted it.  We are going to try to grow it in the house over the winter.  If it works out, even if we don't get anything from it I'll transplant it into the ground in the spring to give us a jump start on the eggplant.  I picked about 2 dozen eggplants today.  I cut one up and boiled it with the spaghetti noodles.  It's a good way to get extra vegetables into the kids. 

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