Cold Affects All
To my bewilderment, the season is changing. The once hot afternoons have cooled to sixty degrees and comfortable in the sun, and the nights and mornings are a chilling forty degrees at times. It’s a tough clothing switch that is challenging my lifelong ideal of California’s climate –hot and sunny year-round.
Just as we are learning to wear warmer clothing all day long, the plants in the garden are getting the experience first hand, having no where to run for warmth when the temperatures drop at night.
Plants Are Needy
Most seeds require somewhere between 60-80 degree soil temperature to germinate. I have been monitoring the soil temperatures of our two garden beds. One bed is uncovered and fully exposed all hours of the night and day, and the other never loses its plastic covering.
With the nights so cold lately, the uncovered soil temperature has been dropping to the 50’s, which is not conducive to our goal. Luckily, there’s such a thing as the greenhouse effect, which we can use to our advantage quite easily!
PVC Cold Frames
In preparation for the cooling weather, I have constructed a PVC pipe-supported plastic cover over the smaller beds in the corral.
The PVC pipes are anchored into the ground with 6-inch long rebar pieces, hammered in to the ground. The hollow pipes fit right on to the rebar. When long enough, the pipes bend easily to the desired height. These coverings are perfect because they are stable but not permanent. You can see how on the middle bed I have simply pulled over a piece of visquine plastic cut to size and used scrap wood to keep it in place at the base of the bed. These have been simple to construct and are far from elaborate, yet practical and useful.
The Solutions Make A Difference
When the beds are covered during the day, trapping in the sun’s heat, the soil temperature stays in the 60’s, which is exactly what we want!
As the night temperatures continue to drop, we may find it necessary to trap in more warmth, or seal out the cold during the night. One option we will explore is draping a nice thick blanket on top of the plastic.
We are looking at our options of erecting a green house from the windows of the house we will eventually take down on our new property. A hoop house is also a viable option, because of its relative simplicity in construction and the variety of sizes that exist.
What are some ways you are taking care of your plants through the cold nights?
What questions do you have about our garden or yours?
Do you have any suggestions?