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Cold coming

Posted by wxcrawler 7a (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 14:09

Hi everyone,

I've been waiting to post this for a few days until I was a little more sure. If you've seen the forecasts, you know it will be cooler next week, but nothing crazy-cold. It looks like we could be in for some real winter temperatures by this time next week, and it could stay mostly cold until about March 6. The CFS model (long-range climate model) has been showing very cold for the last part of Feb and first part of March for the past 3 or 4 days. It seems like the other weather models (GFS and ECMWF) are slowly starting to trend colder late next week with each day, especially the ECMWF. It typically takes the GFS longer to latch on to these cold snaps, so I'm not surprised it's lagging the ECMWF.

I hope I'm wrong. I'm tired of the cold and really enjoyed the past week of warm temperatures. But I'm pretty confident real winter temperatures are returning. Hopefully it won't last too long.

It's still a week or more away, so things could still change. I'll post more in a couple of days.

Lee


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Cold coming

Fun fun! I just noticed my lettuce seeds sprouted and poked their heads out of my garden last night. Here is to hoping they do not get killed off. Luckily it was a wintery blend.


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RE: Cold coming

Lee, thanks for the heads-up.

Larry


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RE: Cold coming

The snow peas are poking out and the spinach we planted last fall was starting to fill out. Now, we'll just have to wait and see.


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RE: Cold coming

Thanks for the update, I've been watching the weather like a hawk this year.. I'm ready to cover anything up that needs it! :)


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RE: Cold coming

I guess sticking to the cold frame is in order.


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RE: Cold coming

Lee thanks for your thoughts. I've been watching the long range for several days. As late as Wed the ones I watch was saying what you did. This morning two I watch including one NWS site have warmed the forecasts some. They have every day in the high 40's to mid 50's now. Maybe it is shifting east I don't know. I'll try to listen to Don Day. He hits this area the best. I plan on being in Leedey most of next week so have been watching to see what the weather will be. I haven't seen any lows below the very high teens. In fact this morning all were in the 20's. Which for us I don't consider cold. Jay


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RE: Cold coming (update)

I noticed this morning that the computer models (GFS and ECMWF) for next week are quite a bit cooler than what was forecast yesterday. The NWS office in Tulsa has lowered it's forecast accordingly. I didn't look at the Norman office forecast yesterday, so I don't know if it's lower.

One other tidbit to add......for what it's worth. The global model generated by the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) has been the best performer overall this winter with the forecasting of cold outbreaks in advance of all of the other models. The latest forecast for March from the JMA shows well below normal temperatures for the month. The anomalies are in line with what we experienced last March, if you remember how chilly that was.

Boy, I hope that's wrong!

Lee


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RE: Cold coming

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the heads up. I've been expecting this but as long as you didn't post something that confirmed what the models were showing, I was holding out hope that it wouldn't materialize. : )

The only thing I have deliberately planted in the ground is onions and they usually are good down to about 20 degrees. I've got floating row cover stored in the garage that can give the plants up to 10 degrees of protection, so my plants are good as long as we don't drop down any colder than 10 degrees.

February is the cruelest month---teasing us with a few days of warm weather that makes us want to believe spring is here, even though the weather almost always turns back significantly colder again.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

They raised our forecasts a few degrees most nights and days for the next 7 from this morning till now. They had us with a low of 12 next week yesterday and now the lowest low they are showing is 20 degrees and every day in the 40's or 50's which is fairly normal for this time of year here. Jay


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RE: Cold coming

Jay......what part of Oklahoma do you live in? Are you referring to the NWS when you say "they" raised the forecast?

Lee


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RE: Cold coming

Lee I live in very SW KS on the OK line. I will be moving to the Leedey area before too long. Yes I was referring to the NWS. And except for Tuesday they have raised the temps considerably over the last 4-5 days. From Thursday on is 50-60's now. Tuesday they have lowered a little. The low for Tuesday is still upper teens. Tomorrow has been raised to upper 40's. 60's Monday. And then mid 30's to 40 on Tuesday, upper 40's to 50 on Wed and then continual warm up. So basically a one day cool down here. Jay


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RE: Cold coming

Jay,

You guys near the Panhandle are in a whole other world. ;-)

You'll warm up a lot quicker than much of the rest of the state. Also, the NWS forecasts tend to depend a lot on which forecaster is on shift. One forecaster may believe in a particular model more than another, and this can bias their forecasts sometimes. I'm not saying that is the case here, but it's common. A lot of times when you see a forecast go back and forth, this is the case. I imagine in this instance the cold air may take a slightly more eastward trajectory, since there will be a little bit of a push from the Pacific into California. This timing can shove the core of the cold slightly eastward.

There's a battle going on between the models as to what happens after next weekend. It will be EXTREMELY cold in the Northern Plains. The battle is whether that drops southward. We'll see. I'm gonna bet we see that cold air (slightly modified) by about March 4-5.

Lee


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RE: Cold coming

Lee I know that our area is very difficult to forecast. Another thing that I feel adds to it here is that we are 120 miles from the closest NWS location or any forecaster and that includes TV and radio. Just two weeks ago there was an 12 degree difference between here and Liberal(60 miles east) for the high temp. Those of us who keep track of the weather joke about the forecast changes at the NWS when shifts change. We used to take screen shots of the forecasts and you could see it. I have 3 online sources I watch and then I try to listen to Don Day and his crew on the radio. They are on two local radios. One in CO and one 60 NE of here in KS. They tend to localize their forecasts for each location more which tends to be a little more accurate. I know we will see a few more lows in the teens. That is normal for this time of year. I doubt we will see any extended extreme cold spells and it is very rare we see a single digit low here after March 1st. I've seen lows here in the upper teens and highs later that day 70. So extreme temp swings here is normal. Which is what makes gardening a challenge. I will be watching for your updates and will keep listening to my sources. So far they haven't mentioned the extreme cold. Only two of them give extended forecasts that cover the first week of March. And I haven't heard the Day forecast for 4-5 days. The only thing normal about the weather here is that is will change. Usually drastically and often. Also that the wind will blow. Jay


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RE: Cold coming (Update)

Winter is about to rear it's ugly head again for much of the state. Tomorrow's cold is just the start, as even colder air will probably arrive Sunday and again next week. The models are not handling the shallow nature of Sunday's cold air very well, so it's very possible the current forecast temperatures for Sunday are way too high. Shallow cold air also means freezing rain and sleet instead of snow, if precipitation falls. Right now this looks more likely across the northern half of the state. The models continue to pump cold air our way every few days at least until around March 11.

Lee


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RE: Cold coming

At least this is good for the trees even if it makes everything else unpleasant. Cold March means less chance of late freeze damage.


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RE: Cold coming

Lee, Thanks once again for the advance warning.

As for the cold weather----bring it on! I'd rather just have winter go ahead and wear itself out and then (hopefully) go away and stay away instead of cycling up and down from cold to hot to cold again.

Scott, Our fruit tree buds are swelling and I hope the cold slows them down so they won't bloom too early. Our pecan trees mostly seem to understand it is still winter and this week's and next week's cold nights should really help reinforce that. However, I saw a young peach tree in full bloom today a couple of miles from our house and I was a little surprised to see it blooming so early. It's so small, I probably would have thinned all the fruit off of it anyhow if it were my tree, but it seems likely the cold nights will take care of any peaches that tree might have produced this year.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

I noticed our plum tree has swelling buds on it. Hopefully it slows down a little.

I went ahead and put a frost blanket on my onions last night. Looks like I will need to play the put-it-on, take-it-off game through the weekend before leaving it on for a few days. I'm trying to prevent later season bolting from roller coaster temps, but think I may not have a chance!


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RE: Cold coming

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 10:53

The 2 peaches I put in last fall arent really showing any signs of budding yet but the one I just got from lowes is. The plums and apples I got are still very dormant. I wasnt planning to let any of them fruit this year anyways so no big deal. Okay well maybe just one fruit per each, LOL.

Should I be covering my onions? I may go kick a bit more mulch on them. Last year I put mine it about the same time and I think we did cover them but I cant remember.

Mike


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RE: Cold coming

Mia, When you grow plums, you just learn to do what you can, and accept that some years Mother Nature wins. Even the native wild plums often bloom too early and lose their crops too. It just makes me appreciate even more the good years when the plums produce well.

I didn't cover up my onions last night but think I might cover them tonight if our forecast doesn't change. After tonight, I shouldn't have to cover them again for a few days...until probably Monday based on our current forecast. In a year like this when we've roller coastered back and forth from cold to colder to coldest to kinda warm weather all winter long , I plant a larger number of onion varieties in the hope that even if some varieties bolt, maybe the others won't. Sometimes when you have a lot of diversity in the onion patch, you get a good yield even if, let's say, half the varieties bolt.

Mike, It depends on what your overnight low is expected to be. Onions can suffer freeze damage at around 20 degrees. I usually cover mine up if I am expecting our low to drop below 22 or 23 just to be safe. And, just because they can suffer freeze damage (including plant death), that doesn't mean they necessarily do. Sometimes they do and something they don't, and sometimes it is widespread damage and sometimes it is minor. I think other factors are involved including how warm the ground is, how long the temperatures stay around 20 degrees, etc.

If in doubt, I tend to err on the side of safety and cover up whatever I think might be at risk. It is so easy to walk down to the garden with a row cover and use it occasionally that I'd rather use it when I don't need it than need it and not use it. Last year, we had those persistent freezing nights for so long that I covered up various crops with row cover from 1 to 3 nights a week through the end of the first week in May. It drove me stark raving mad to do it, especially considering my average last frost day is March 28th, but I did it anyway and didn't lose anything on those cold nights.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

My onions transplants were already looking pathetic. The ones I grew from seed still look good. I didn't cover them last night, either. Now, all I have is glorious alfalfa hay which is for the rabbits, but I'll cover them with it.

They're dry. Is it harmful to water before a freeze? After typing that I drew a visual. I bet it is.

I planted them on a mound of dirt, but the bulbs are placed shallowly.


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RE: Cold coming

No, Bon, it is important to water before a freeze. Dry plants, especially dry roots, suffer more freeze damage than moist ones. So, if you get a chance, give the onions a little drink before it gets so cold tonight. This is especially important specifically because onions are planted shallowly. You want for the soil they're growing in to be nice and moderately moist but not sopping wet.

Sometimes onion transplants do look pathetic at first but they often outgrow that pathetic stage. Weather that is up and down and all over the place (and windy!) can be hard on young onion plants. As the weather improves, the pathetic-looking plants often improve too.

Now, after the cold weather passes, if the onions still look bad, be patient and let them be. I've had onions freeze to the ground some years, and sometimes almost all of them have regrown but it took several weeks for it to become apparent they were regrowing.

By planting them shallowly, you did it correctly, and that's one reason it is important for them to be watered and then either mulched or covered (a bedsheet is lightweight and is better than nothing) with a textile (not plastic because plastic conducts cold right to the plants wherever it touches them). You even can cover them with plastic sheeting if it is suspended high above the plants on some sort of support that leaves an air space between the plants and the plastic.

When I cover up plants prior to a cold night, I usually cover them up at about 3 pm, particularly on sunny days, in order to catch/capture the heat in the soil and even in the air. Row covers help hold in that heat and keep the plants a bit warmer than the cooler air outside the row cover. The one I'm using tonight gives 10 degrees of protection, so my onions "should be" okay even if we drop to 10 degrees, which isn't going to happen here in southern OK tonight.


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RE: Cold coming

Looking more like a significant ice storm somewhere across Eastern Oklahoma and NW Arkansas on Sunday. In Tulsa, we'll likely stay below freezing from late Saturday night until sometime on Wednesday. Yuck!!

Lee


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RE: Cold coming

Our mesonet says 16 degrees last night, so I'm glad I covered, but I don't think I covered much if at all last year an it surely got cold then. I got lots of onions anyway. I'm always experimenting to figure out the best practices for my yard.

I don't know how many degrees of protection I have with this frost blanket, so will only leave it on tonight (didn't take it off when I left for work this a.m. because it was still really cold) then take off so the onions get some sunlight before the next cold spell.


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RE: Cold coming

OK. Onions are watered and covered. Thanks!

bon


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RE: Cold coming

Lee, That's too cold for too long. I am glad we won't be as cold for as long down here.

Mia, There's different weights of row cover, and the ones I see in the stores more often tend to offer either 2-4 degrees of protection or 6-8 degrees. The one that I bought that gives 10 degrees of protection is the only brand I've ever seen that gives that much protection and it is very heavy and does not allow much light to penetrate, so I generally take it off the plants as quickly as possible once the temperatures are out of the danger zone. It is so heavy that with most young plants, I use hoops to suspend it above the plants so it doesn't flatten them down to the ground.

I don't think I lost any onions last year, but I'm not sure how often we were in the 20s after I put onions in the ground. It seemed like the low temperatures that were troublesome for most of last year were more like the mid- to upper-20s or the low 30s and not so much in the lower 20s or teens like this year. I think that some vareities are even more prone to freeze than others because sometimes I'll have a row of one variety freeze or at least suffer significant damage from the cold while adjacent rows on either side are fine.

Bon, Yay! Glad they are ready for the cold.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

Our forecast low (from the NWS point forecast for my specific low-lying portion of our county) was 24 but I knew we were in trouble when it already was 26 degrees by 10 pm and I was glad that I had covered up the onions. By midnight the NWS had lowered our forecast low to 20 (duh----we already were 21 degrees by then). I mentally adjusted that 20 degrees to 16 and went to sleep.

I haven't even been downstairs yet so haven't checked our Min-Max thermometer, but our Mesonet station shows a low of 14. I doubt we got quite as cold here since we are a little farther south. I likely would have lost my onions last night if I hadn't covered them up.

The above explains (a) why I hate the weather here and (b) why I will cover up even some cold-hardy crops when the forecast says we will stay above the minimum temperature they can tolerate. Increasingly I find myself trusting the forecast lows less and less and covering up plants more and more.

Now I am watching the Sunday forecast really carefully because I think our forecast down here could be overly optimistic for the early part of next week for our part of the state and the onions may be in serious danger during the Sun-Tues time frame .

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

Thanks for the heads-up, Lee.

Last year I planted 9 or 10 bunches from Dixondale. Lost every cotton-pickin' one of them to frosts.....like 4 times we had a hard freeze in our little micro-climate. They were out in the Original Garden and was too large of space to cover. Blech. This year - I only planted 8 bunches.....in a raised bed on the east side of my house. Hoops are installed and a frost blanket is already in place. Going to water thoroughly tonite and hope for the best. I got my frost blankets (they protect down to 24) from gardeners dot com. A little pricey but considering onions may soon be $1 each, it's worth it to me.

Paula


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RE: Cold coming

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 17:18

You know with how cold it looks to get next week I am half tempted to go pull all my onions. I only have about 100 and it would only take me 5-10 minutes to pull and put them in the house. Heck it will take me longer to drive to Southwood and buy more if I lost them then to pull and re plant. I could cover them with blankets and such but I see 10 degrees on the forecast with rain/snow.

They have only been in the ground a couple weeks and havent showed any really sign of growth.

Think that is crazy?

mike


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RE: Cold coming

Mike, I don't know if that's crazy but I thought of that, too! Mine have only been in the ground about 10 days.


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RE: Cold coming

Paula, I think the pricey investment is worth it. I only laid the row cover on the ground last night and weighted down the edges with t-posts and rebar, but Saturday I'm going to go ahead and put up the hoops and do it right for the big cold spell. Before I started using row cover and covering up onions on especially cold nights, I would lose some of the onions to cold almost every year and once or twice I lost them all. After buying the plants, preparing the soil, planting them and watering them, I am determined to save them from the cold nowadays if I can. I just hate the wasted effort, and I hate having to replant.

Mike and Mia, Crazy, crazy, crazy....and I wouldn't do it, and here's why. Even if you cannot see outward growth above ground, it is likely they have begun growing inside. (The only way I can imagine that they would not already have begun internal growth would be if you planted them in soil that was totally bone dry, didn't water them, and started out in the first place with really, really dry and dehydrated onions that had not a hint of green to them. In that case, they might be too dry to grow until they received some moisture.)

Because onions are biennials, too much interruption in their growing process makes them respond to the interruption in the way a biennial responds in its second year----by sending up a flower stalk, which we veggie growers refer to as 'bolting'. When the young onion plants, which were started from seed in the fall, are yanked out of the ground, bundled up, and shipped, that was their first interruption. As long as they were small enough (generally smaller than the diameter of a No. 2 pencil or had 5 or fewer leaves), this first interruption does not induce bolting because they are too small. So, then you put them in the ground and they begin growing. As long as they are allowed to continue without another interruption to their growing process, they should bulb up just fine once the day-length reaches the right number of hours. If something disrupts their growing process after you've planted them in the ground, they'll generally bolt. So, in this case, removing them to save them likely would result in bolting for at least some of them, and possibly all of them, depending on how big they were when planted. If I were in the situation y'all are in, I'd water them well so the soil was moist, I'd mulch them heavily and then I'd throw floating row cover, old bedsheets, etc. over them during the worst of the cold weather. They all might survive, or some might survive, but if you pull them all and replant them, the odds are very high that they'll bolt.

In 2013, Vidalia onion growers had a lot of bolting for various reasons (one of which was wildly-fluctuating temperatures), and the Dixondale Farms folks discussed it in some detail in one of their monthly newsletters last summer or fall. I am going to go find that newsletter and link it here because I am sure he explained it much better there than I am explaining here.

One year when we had really bad weather return for a prolonged period after lots of warm weather, I buried my onions under autumn leaves dumped loosely on them. I didn't pack down the leaves because I was worried the onion foliage would mold. They were so buried in the loosely piled leaves that you couldn't see them, and for a while, snow sat on top of the leaves. I was lucky--the onions survived. I think I left the leaves on top of the onions for three weeks, and during that time we had sleet and snow fall multiple times. I didn't have enough row cover to cover them (I used it for tomatoes and peppers) and the leaves were a last-ditch effort to save the onions. Luckily, it worked.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: The Onion Patch Newsletter, Sept. 2013


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RE: Cold coming

Paula, I think the pricey investment is worth it. I only laid the row cover on the ground last night and weighted down the edges with t-posts and rebar, but Saturday I'm going to go ahead and put up the hoops and do it right for the big cold spell. Before I started using row cover and covering up onions on especially cold nights, I would lose some of the onions to cold almost every year and once or twice I lost them all. After buying the plants, preparing the soil, planting them and watering them, I am determined to save them from the cold nowadays if I can. I just hate the wasted effort, and I hate having to replant.

Mike and Mia, Crazy, crazy, crazy....and I wouldn't do it, and here's why. Even if you cannot see outward growth above ground, it is likely they have begun growing inside. (The only way I can imagine that they would not already have begun internal growth would be if you planted them in soil that was totally bone dry, didn't water them, and started out in the first place with really, really dry and dehydrated onions that had not a hint of green to them. In that case, they might be too dry to grow until they received some moisture.)

Because onions are biennials, too much interruption in their growing process makes them respond to the interruption in the way a biennial responds in its second year----by sending up a flower stalk, which we veggie growers refer to as 'bolting'. When the young onion plants, which were started from seed in the fall, are yanked out of the ground, bundled up, and shipped, that was their first interruption. As long as they were small enough (generally smaller than the diameter of a No. 2 pencil or had 5 or fewer leaves), this first interruption does not induce bolting because they are too small. So, then you put them in the ground and they begin growing. As long as they are allowed to continue without another interruption to their growing process, they should bulb up just fine once the day-length reaches the right number of hours. If something disrupts their growing process after you've planted them in the ground, they'll generally bolt. So, in this case, removing them to save them likely would result in bolting for at least some of them, and possibly all of them, depending on how big they were when planted. If I were in the situation y'all are in, I'd water them well so the soil was moist, I'd mulch them heavily and then I'd throw floating row cover, old bedsheets, etc. over them during the worst of the cold weather. They all might survive, or some might survive, but if you pull them all and replant them, the odds are very high that they'll bolt.

In 2013, Vidalia onion growers had a lot of bolting for various reasons (one of which was wildly-fluctuating temperatures), and the Dixondale Farms folks discussed it in some detail in one of their monthly newsletters last summer or fall. I am going to go find that newsletter and link it here because I am sure he explained it much better there than I am explaining here.

One year when we had really bad weather return for a prolonged period after lots of warm weather, I buried my onions under autumn leaves dumped loosely on them. I didn't pack down the leaves because I was worried the onion foliage would mold. They were so buried in the loosely piled leaves that you couldn't see them, and for a while, snow sat on top of the leaves. I was lucky--the onions survived. I think I left the leaves on top of the onions for three weeks, and during that time we had sleet and snow fall multiple times. I didn't have enough row cover to cover them (I used it for tomatoes and peppers) and the leaves were a last-ditch effort to save the onions. Luckily, it worked.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: The Onion Patch Newsletter, Sept. 2013


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RE: Cold coming

haha I placed that alfalfa hay down late afternoon. Right after I watered the onion bed. I didn't water the hay. I forgot fresh alfalfa is green. About noon today it was steaming. I quickly pulled it away from the onions.

But the onions greened and were perked up.

Sheesh.. Live and learn from carelessness.


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RE: Cold coming

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 21:22

Dawn. Thank goodness you are here to keep us from doing dumb things. LoL. I'll do my best to mulch and cover.

Mike


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RE: Cold coming

Thanks, Dawn. Our low for Monday is projected to be 9 so although I will water Sat morning and mulch well and cover, I'm not holding out too much hope. 9 degrees is a lot to overcome. If I need to, I can pop over to TLC to grab new onion plants if these freeze out.


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RE: Cold coming

Bon, lol lol lol I've had stuff like that happen too. Don't think of it as learning from carelessness because you were not deliberately careless. Just think of it as learning from experience. Sometimes, as we all know, experience can be a cruel teacher.

I love alfalfa hay, but when it is fresh and green, it can decompose fast, creating its own steam. I have to be careful when using it. That's why I love my old bales of native prairie hay that I've been using for the last three years---they are so old they already have decomposed enough that there's nothing left in them to cause steam. I find the older bales that I've let sit a long time are practically compost by the time I use them as mulch, but that works to my advantage in a case like this. I tend to put newer hay on the pathways where it doesn't matter if it steams up anything. In fact, if you can put hot mulch materials on your pathways, the heat they generate as they decompose can kill weed seedlings that are attempting to sprout in the pathways.

Having said that. some gardeners use fresh manure, fresh alfalfa and the like in the bottom of cold frames, and that is a great use for them. The fresh manure and fresh alfalfa create their own heat, as you described, and help keep the inside of the cold frame warmer than it otherwise would be. The late GW member Bill P., who posted as "Gone Fishin'", used to fill the bottom of his cold frame with inches and inches of manure/straw from his daughter's horse barn in the winter and he would raise onions sets and tomato seedlings in there in late winter/early spring east of Dallas, using the heat those materials generated to keep his plants warmer inside his cold frame. So, Bon, maybe if you could have the alfalfa on the ground near the onions but not touching them, the alfalfa might make enough heat to get them through this coming cold spell.

Mike, Trust me when I tell you that y'all never ever will make a single mistake I haven't already made before you ever thought of trying it. The advantage I have over y'all is that I am OLDer, have gardened for a long time because I grew up in a gardening family, and I've already had all these ideas and made all these mistakes and hopefully have learned from them. : ) I think we gardeners owe it to one another to pass on what we learn so that the next person doesn't have to learn so much the hard way.

Mia, Oh dear. That is really cold. I am in a semi-panic because our forecast increasingly shows freezing rain and sleet, etc., and some cold temperatures that worry me, and my weather should not be nearly as cold as yours.

So, I know what I will do for my conditions, and I expect it will work for me down here in southern OK, but I am not sure it would work in central OK where the cold will be worse and more prolonged.

I watered the onions yesterday, and I will mulch them today. Then, tomorrow I will set up the hoops, which I already have and which I used last year to hold the row cover high over the onions. The one drawback to the heavy Frost Blanket type row cover is that it is incredibly heavy so I don't like laying it directly on the onions once they have any size to them at all. At that point, with the hoops in place, I have 2 options and I don't know which I'll choose.

Option 1 is to lay the row cover on the ground directly on top of the onions. That would work okay since the onions still are so small. Then, I could use the roll of 6 mm thick clear plastic that I keep in the garage for emergencies, and I could put the plastic over the hoops and, essentially, have mini-greenhouses or low tunnels over the onion beds. If I do that, I cannot do it until tomorrow afternoon because our high temp today is expected to be in the 70s and either in the very low 70s or upper 60s tomorrow and I don't want to roast my little onions. Or, I could not use the plastic and just could put the row cover over the hoops.

In 2007 when cold weather returned in April after a lot of warm winter/early spring weather prior to that, I built high and low tunnels over every individual bed and protected everything for almost 3 weeks of snowy sleety weather, but I think we only dropped to the teens, not the single digits.

One thing for y'all to consider: if you know that TLC or other nurseries have their onion plants outdoors, you might want to buy the backup plants before the big storm hits. Hopefully, the retailers will move the onion plants indoors to a more protected location if they currently have them outdoors, but at this time of the year with so many plants arriving in stores, their storage space and time may be stretched to the max as it is. I've seen big box stores leave tomato plants and other warm season transplants outside in the garden centers and let the snow fall on them and freeze them to death before, so you just never know if management in those places is paying attention to the weather...or if they just don't care if the plants die or whatever.

One year I bought backup onion plants before a big cold spell and didn't need them, so I just planted them in the ground afterwards an inch apart and harvested them throughout the spring as scallions/green onions. Another year I bought them as backups in advance and was glad I did because I needed them and the stores had left their crates of onion plants outside in bitter cold and they looked awful. I wouldn't have bought any of those poor frozen things.

I agree that 9 degrees is a whole lot to overcome. One year I had to think of a way, fast, fast, fast, to protect onions when it became clear we were going to drop down into the teens and I had row cover over more important plants. I had two cases of bottled water in the garage. I think they were 20 oz. bottles. It was a sunny afternoon, so I set the cases of water outside on the concrete to warm up for a couple of hours. Them, I carried them to the garden, and laid down the bottles of water in between the rows of onions. I threw old blankets over the whole mess and hoped for the best. My young onions (they probably had been in the ground 4 or 5 weeks) survived even though those bottles of water froze overnight. As water freezes, it gives off heat.....but I am not sure bottles of water could keep onions warm enough if y'all go to 9 degrees.

And, if your forecast is like mine, 9 degrees might mean 4 degrees when all is said and done.

I have watched our forecast so carefully ever since Lee posted this originally and, in fact, had started watching the models a couple of days before, and I kept trying to convince myself that it would be a problem for y'all up there in northern and central OK but that it might not make it far enough south to be a real problem for us. Well, our forecast is going downhill fast, and now it looks like this front will be a problem way, way, way down south of us in Texas, so my hope that it wouldn't hit us so hard here is dead and gone.

I am beginning to think that we need to pretend March is February and not get carried away planting too much until April because the recurring weather pattern that keeps bringing us these bitter cold fronts isn't going away fast enough for my liking.

Because it is warm today here and will be warm tomorrow and my plum trees are on the verge of blooming, I expect they'll bloom tomorrow and then get hit by freezing rain and sleet on Sunday or Monday. It wouldn't surprise me if I walked outside right now and found a bloom open on the plums---they are just that close to blooming. It is a whole lot harder to protect a mature plum tree--mine is at least a decade old and probably closer to 12 or 13 years old--than a few rows of onions. Since it is so old and so large, it will be hard to protect it, but I may try to do something tomorrow to keep it warmer, especially if the flowers do bloom. I only have the one plum tree to worry about. The other one usually is about 2 weeks later to bloom, and the peach trees are a bit later to bloom as well. Unfortunately, the one that blooms early is the one that produces our favorite plums.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

I may try to rig up some kind of low tunnel idea. I have a lot of spare pressure treated lumber from a pergola project that I've been holding onto for about 8 years, so I would be willing to use it in the garden as a temporary item since I believe a lot of the initial leaching has been done. I couldn't do a hoop shape but I could build a little square or peaked roof frame and put plastic or row cover over it. I'd need to snag a few more frost blankets to make that work, but I can see the benefit to having them on hand for the future!

I haven't started any seeds indoors yet, so I am certainly one of the "April is March" camp people.


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RE: Cold coming

It's hard to believe, but this morning's models are even a little colder for Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised if we are down to 10 degrees by sunset on Sunday with a low in the 3-5 degree range here in Tulsa (or at least in the areas surrounding Tulsa) Monday morning.

Dawn....I think your current forecast of near 20 Monday morning is going to end up being more like 15.

Lee


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RE: Cold coming

Mia,

I've had good luck this year by making hoops out of #9 wire, at least that's what we called it growing up on the farm. Anyways it's 9 gauge galvanized steel wire. Atwoods and Tractor Supply will have it for sure. I think I made them about 54" long. The wire comes in a roll about the right diameter for the hoop. I didn't have to bend it at all because of the way it was rolled up.

I just stuck it into the ground about 6 inches on each side. I covered it with plastic and got my carrots to sprout in record time along with black plastic mulch. There is about 12" of clearance at the center of the hoop.

NWS is predicting a low of 8 Monday morning. The plastic won't help much if it's that cold though.

I haven't planted my onions yet and I have red cabbage and broccoli plants that need to be transplanted as well.

Hopefully we're back to average temps by Wednesday or Thursday.


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RE: Cold coming

Mia,

Okay, so you and I are in the "April is the New March" camp. If gut feelings are anything, I've had one since before Christmas that this would be a rough winter in terms of getting planting done at the usual times, and nothing that we've seen has changed my mind. I really think the cold will hang on deeply into March and we will have to either plant later than usual, or go ahead and plant and try to protect everything during all the late cold spells. I started my tomato seeds two weeks later than usual and am worried that wasn't late enough.

Anything you can build over the plants to help hold in the heat will help and will give them a better chance of surviving, but all of you who are facing single-digit temperatures might be fighting a losing battle. There is only so much you can do.

OSUEngineer, I've also seen that 9-gauge wire at places like Lowe's and Home Depot. I think I've seen it in the fencing department. I use PVC pipe and EMT for hoops because we have pet cats who think that row cover on top of hoops is intended to serve as cat hammocks. Of course, the 9-gauge wire will not support a fat, happy cat, so I have to use sturdier hoops or I find fat, happy cats tangled up in downed hoops and row cover on top of smashed plants. Cats are wonderful pets and are mostly wonderful garden companions, but they can be a PITA when you're using hoops for anything.

Lee, Thanks, and I agree. This week we had a forecast low of 24 and went to 14, which you know makes me stark raving crazy.....so I automatically adjust all forecast lows downward until mid-May. : )

The more closely I watch what is coming, the less I like it. The system that brings us the bad stuff is still so far away, and I just keep wondering if the forecast will get worse and worse as it moves our way.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming....and soon!

Lee, You were right. They dropped our forecast low for early Monday morning to 14. If our actual low drops 5-10 degrees lower than forecast like it did a couple of times earlier this week, all the floating row cover and low tunnels I have may not be enough to protect the onions. The wind chill might be the lowest it has been here all winter too. Is this any way for meteorological spring to begin? I think not .

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

hey dawn. im starting to feel like our onions may be a lost cause now. Low monday of 8 and wind chills below zero. Im going to mulch heavy and cover with every blanket I got and a tarp to stop the ice, sleet and snow from getting them too wet. I hope not but we shall see.

mike


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RE: Cold coming

I'm going to put some PVC hoops over the raised bed with onions in it for the next couple days and then drape plastic over it.

My questions is.... it's going to get so cold, that alone is not enough to necessarily protect them. So I'm thinking about putting a heat lamp inside the plastic. Is this bad? Will it heat it up too much in there?

I figure I could wait to turn it on until later that night right before I go to bed, then either turn it off about 6am when I get up, or I could use a time to turn it off earlier.

Any thoughts?


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RE: Cold coming

Mike, Give it all you've got. I do not think your onions will survive uncovered, so cover them up with anything and everything you can scrounge up. You have nothing to lose by trying, except maybe there is the possibility you'll later look back and say it was wasted time and effort. I always try to protect crops when very cold weather is threatening them because I am stubborn and don't want to let the weather take my crop, particularly so early in the season. I do feel like a lot of us might be fighting a losing battle, but on the other hand....I hate to concede the battle without fighting.

What if the NWS is wrong (okay, I am sure Lee is shaking his head at that statement) and we stay 3 to 5 degrees warmer than they say? We just might save the onions, that's what!

Remember that some fairly strong winds will accompany the storm in some sections of the state, so whatever you use to cover the plants needs to be weighted down well. I normally use Earth Staples (U-shaped pins that are used to hold down landscape fabric and row cover) if winds are going to be fairly mild, but when the forecast is for gusts to 30 or higher, I generally use pieces of rebar, metal t-posts and old landscape timbers and pieces of lumber to hold down all the row cover.

Dulahey, Heat lamps can be a little bit problematic in wind. If whatever material you are using to cover the plants is able to make contact with the plastic or blankets or sheets or whatever you are using, it can start a fire. Because it might be windy, I personally wouldn't use a heat lamp unless I could put some sort of cage over it that would absolutely, positively keep any potentially flammable material from making contact with it.

If you remember the old strings of Christmas lights from the olden days (roughly prior to the 1990s, I guess) that were big and put off significant heat, I know some people who use those to keep fruit trees or tomato plants warm when cold threatens. Usually they use them in combination with plastic, in the hope that whatever heat is generated by the light bulbs will be held in by the heat. How well it works depends on both winds and temperatures. There is a fire risk with these bulbs too because they get fairly hot, so a person using them has to be careful with them too. If you choose to use heat of any sort under plastic or textiles, be extra careful. Our fire department has been dispatched to fires before caused by heat lamps in a barn or chicken coop, or even in a dog house. In the case of the last one we went to that started in a dog house, the heat lamp set the dog blanket on fire. The dog got out safely, but the burning dog house singed the house a little. It could have been a lot worse if someone hadn't seen the fire in the middle of the night and called 9-1-1.

One way I commonly attempt to hold heat inside the plastic placed over rows of veggies is to fill buckets with water early in the day so there is some solar heat gain. I normally use 5-gallon buckets, kitty litter buckets, and the big plastic jugs that kitty litter comes in. I have saved them forever and have quite a collection now. I usually line up the buckets on the north side of the row (my rows run east-west) so that at least the plants are protected on the coldest side. If I have enough buckets, I line them up on the south side too. Then I put row cover and/or sheet plastic all of it, weight it down with boards and hope for the best. I've protected tomato plants under plastic throughout 3 weeks of intermittent snow, sleet and perpetually cold weather that way. I never uncovered them. I didn't have to because it stayed cloudy almost the whole time. If there had been a warm sunny day stuck in there, I likely would at least have uncovered the end of the rows to let air flow through. For just a couple of days, that's not a worry.

I'm going to head out to the garden in a few minutes to finish my pre-storm preparations, which will include looking at the pretty white blooms on the plum tree. I expected it to bloom today, but I'm not happy that it did.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

I don't like the idea of loosing my onions, but they are only onions. I would not risk a fire for a truck load of onions. I started hauling mulch to cover my onions and my mower quit. I will throw what mulch I have at the garden on top of them and hope for the best. If they freeze I will till them and the mulch in and plant again. If they bolt I will eat or freeze them and hope for a better 2015 year.

Larry


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RE: Cold coming

Dulahey,

I planted some tomato and pepper plants last year on March 15th. I think we had about 7 nights where it got below freezing after that, one as low as 19. I had them in two hoop houses.

I had an electric space heater in one house. It was sitting in the middle on a concrete block on the lowest setting. The other house had a heat lamp hanging a couple feet below the roof and a halogen work light that puts off quite a bit of heat.

A couple nights I used blankets and tarps over the hoop houses, but they were more trouble than they were worth. I didn't loose any plants to freeze or frost damage.

This guy uses Christmas lights to heat his hoop house and pretty much gardens all year long in South Carolina. Pretty amazing that it was 15 outside, but inside his hoop house it was 40.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t9613-january-in-the-mid-south-garden


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RE: Cold coming

Here's another video about using Christmas lights for heat.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t9192-season-extension-video-my-hoop-tunnel


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RE: Cold coming

Larry,

I agree that I wouldn't risk a fire for onions. When it is very very cold I will put a regular incandescent light bulb in each of the two chicken coop and it keeps them a little warmer, but we won't even use a heat lamp in there unless we are going down into the single digits. The chickens can handle pretty cold temperatures as long as they are acclimated to them and have adapted to them, as ours have.

Your mower sounds like my equipment. It only breaks down at the one time that I really, really need it to work. It works fine on days that aren't critically important.

OSUEngineer, I keep my hoop house style greenhouse pretty warm just with a whole lot of buckets of water. Just this past week, the overnight low dropped to 14 degrees, but the Min-Max thermometer showed it only dropped to 29 in the greenhouse. That was even a little better than I expected. Today I left it closed up to heat up the water as much as possible and it hit 97 degrees in there so far today. There's nothing in there that cannot handle the 97 degrees. The tomato plants will be moving inside the house tonight though. I'm not taking any chances with them and this approaching cold weather. They are sunning themselves on the patio this afternoon.

I have the greenhouse full of seedlings later in spring, but all that is in there right now is some zone 7 and zone 8 plants in pots. Some years I've already moved all the seedlings out to the greenhouse by now, but this year they all are stuck inside on the light shelves unto the weather stabilizes a little. I've had some nights in recent springs when I threw floating row cover over the tables full of seedlings because the temperature was dropping into the low 20s, and one kinda scary night when it dropped to 19 and I thought the greenhouse would drop below freezing, but the greenhouse always stayed at least 33 degrees and I've never lost seedlings in there. I have a space heater I can put in there if I think that I need to use it, but so far I've never used it. Tim suggested I use the space heater to keep the plum trees warm tomorrow night, but short of building a giant hoop house over them, I cannot imagine how it would be possible. Even for plums, which we like so much that they are worth the extra effort, there's only so much you can do when you're facing temperatures in the mid-teens.

Today the peach trees are trying to bloom, and the first plum tree blooms are open today. Why wouldn't they bloom? It hit 80 yesterday for the second time in a week, although one thermometer showed 80, another 79 and a third 78, so it is possible the peach trees only experienced a 78-degree day. Regardless, they said something like "It's spring! Let's bloom." I wish we'd stayed cooler this past week so the trees would have maybe slowed down a little. The little honey bees are happy though. Today they've had their choice of dandelions, henbit, chickweed, tomato blossoms and plum blossoms. I hope that will make up for the fact that they won't have anything tomorrow.

I need to get back outside shortly and put the row cover over the onions. I have wanted to let the ground soak up all the sunlight it can while we've got it, but it looks like it is trying to hide behind the clouds, so our sunshiney part of the day may be ending.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

We haven't had any sun today, been drizzly, cloudy and in the 40s. I went out and DH helped me rake big piles of leaves over the onions to a depth of about 10", then I covered that with the row cover and tacked it with U-pins and a few bricks for good measure. I thought about throwing some sheets over the whole thing, but would that be worth while if we get freezing rain as predicted? I'm thinking it might just become a little ice cave.


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RE: Cold coming

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 1, 14 at 20:18

well i got mine covered with a few inches of mulch a movers blanket and a tarp to keep them dry. Poor things didnt look all that great to begin with so i got my fingers crossed. On the bright side my soil out there was 42 degrees so maybe that will help them.

Dawn my little peaches are barely swelling but they will surely pop in the next couple weeks then get nailed again im sure. I didnt plan to let them set anyways but I feel bad for places like Porter and all the crops they might lose this year.

Mike


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RE: Cold coming

Mia,

Sheets likely wouldn't hurt and could help. It might create an ice cave, but even if it did, the ice cave might help hold in whatever warmth is emanating from the soil.

I mulched mine with about an inch of compost, and then with loosely piled hay about 3-4" high. Then I put the row cover over it and pinned it down, and put boards on top of the pins for good measure. As cold as it will be, I don't know if what I did was enough, but there's only so much you can do.

Mike, It sounds like you've got them covered really well. Now, just hope for a little cooperation from the weather.

I left my rows of onions uncovered as long as possible because the sun came out for a few hours and I wanted for the ground and mulch to soak up all the heat it could. Our soil temps are great here because we've had some days with highs in the 70s and 80s during the past week, but I bet this big blast of cold air cools down the soil quite a bit.

I feel for the fruit growers too. In recent years, it has been hard for them to consistently get a good crop. Our weather is so erratic any more (and by 'our' I mean pretty much the entire USA) that I don't know how farmers and ranchers survive.

There really isn't anything I can do to help the fruit trees. They're too big to cover and if we actually drop down as cold as the NWS says, there's nothing I can do to prevent the inevitable damage. Growing stone fruit always will be a challenge here because of our erratic temperatures in late winter and early spring.

Dawn


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RE: Cold coming

I went out just after posting and put down a few doubled-up sheets, weighted with bricks. The large amount of leaves covered over the tops of the onions so I didn't worry too much about packing down the foliage.

Fingers crossed!


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RE: Cold coming

One year when we got really cold and I only had one piece of row cover and lots of plants in the ground, I covered with sheets during the day and just before I went to bed I filled 2 liter pop bottles and milk jugs with the hottest water I could run and ran out and tucked the bottles under the sheets. I don't have anything in the ground this year.


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RE: Cold coming

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 19:54

Who needs garden onions. I started regrowing these store bought green onions a few weeks ago. LoL.
Mike


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