Potential frosts 9 months a year and 40C+ heat!

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by mouseinthehouse, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    This battling with the vagaries of weather is so frustrating. We had the first frost for the year 2 days ago. The vegetable garden went from hero to zero overnight. It looked like someone sprayed it with Agent Orange. :(

    So that ended it for the squash, pumpkins, eggplant, chilli, zukes, tomatoes, pineapple sage and cucumbers. The young grapevines hadn't lost their leaves yet and are frizzled. The young 4 foot fig trees leaves are fried. The pepino is 2/3 stuffed. The little citrus trees in the back yard had their new growth shrivelled.

    Lots of the vegies had only just got ramping up again after the horrid heat wave cooked everything in January. Not to mention beetle plagues. Talk about pull your hair out.

    Our latest frost comes in December. Talk about a short growing season. Getting small trees established is VERY difficult. They either get frozen or die of heat and dry conditions.

    Would building rock cairns in the garden and food forest help with the frost? What about car tyres around stuff like the pepino? Any ideas appreciated.
     
  2. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Where do you live mouse?

    Some of those veges are definitely tropical plants that I wouldn't expect to survive an early heavy frost. But there are some things to try. Shade is definitely good. I've used things like old shower doors to lean against the house to protect tomatoes. Even newpaper or sacks are good, but there is the work in putting them on and off each day. Trees/food forest would also be worth experimenting with. I've certainly found trees shade a boon when gardening in a hot dry place, and we know that trees also provide frost shade.

    Have you seen Sharon Astyk's work on extending the growing season? Her blog is now only on the internet archive, if you can be bothered searching, here is the link, but otherwise try the library for her books (she was written about this quite a bit). https://web.archive.org/web/2011111...xtension-getting-more-green-from-your-garden/

    We have late frosts and early frosts here too, and many people are now looking at food storage as a response to that. Others grow in glasshouses or use frost cloth.
     
  3. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Meant to say, observation would be crucial here. Where the frost pockets on your land? Where does frost not hit so hard or sometimes at all? Why is that, in each case? Frost also rolls down hill, so depressions or bottoms of the slope are often worst.
     
  4. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    Thanks for that Pebble. We live at Naracoorte in the south east of SA. We were expecting of course the frost to take stuff out but it is EARLY this year. Probably as a result of not having any rain for 6 months the ground is DRY which made it bad. I am worried this trend will continue with climate change.
    Unfortunately we were not into gardening when we bought here and sited the house. The house and gardens are indeed in a large depression. There are essentially no areas which are not affected by frost even where there are large trees, lots of native shrubs etc although they did lessen the damage to some extent. We don't have anywhere else to site our vegie gardens or food forests so we have to work around it. A lot of the stuff like fig trees etc. are fine once bigger. It took us nearly 8 yrs to get two lemon scented gums to a height where they wouldn't be nuked half to death every year. I suspect the grape vines might be the same. Some stuff is fine still like the carrots and beetroot, rhubarb, kale, rocket, artichoke and herbs. In the past we could grow melons but I don't think this will be possible if this sort of season becomes more the norm. Will need to use more native edibles, frost hardy stuff.
     
  5. Sandman

    Sandman Junior Member

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    Hi there. We get both hot and cold here in central Florida, too, so I understand your frustration. Have you considered hugelkultur? It reportedly raises temperature due to the decomposition of the buried logs. We have done some hugelkultur, although on a smaller scale and more for creating moisture reservoirs below ground. In your case, if you stacked enough logs and buried them, it would also raise the elevation and deal with the issue of frost pockets. Other annual veggies that are frost tolerant include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips, onions, garlic, radish. I'm only growing perennials now, and although we live close to a truly tropical climate, we're not quite there and it only takes one light frost to do in a lot of plants. This year, because we had a very mild winter and late frosts in spring, we lost 3 young trees and one young grape that had broke bud too soon. A few perenialls that can take both heat and cold to some extent include feijoa, kiwifruit, kumquat, loquat, limequat, blueberry, blackberry, jujube, goumi, mandarin, che. Here in Florida, low-chill varieties have been developed for apple, pear, peach, plum. I watch a TV program about folks living in Alaska, and they grow a lot of veggies in a short growing season, but they use a greenhouse to extend the season a couple of weeks on both ends. Anyway, hope that helps. Hang in there, after adjusting your methods and plants to your conditions, you'll have more success.
     
  6. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Yes & yes.

    Do you have permafrost? If so you can't do typical huglekulture, you need to do it above ground. If you have heavy clay soil like I do, again, you should not dig for huglekulture. Build above soil, don't dig. Line beds with rocks. Lava rocks not advised.
     
  7. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    Thanks guys for the advice. We don't have have permafrost thankfully! :) We are definitely going to put in some hugelkulture beds, we were mainly thinking of addressing soil moisture concerns with them as we are on deep sand (relic sand dunes) although some red clay pockets underlie at varying depths. This first frost frizzled sensitive stuff to a height of nearly 5 feet. I have feijoa in and olives and onions, garlic and leeks, they do really well. Berries can't cope here at the moment too dry and the heat cooks them even with shade covering and mulch (hot winds). No local stone here but we have a bit of broken up concrete which I will use for the cairns. Also have enough tyres.
     
  8. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    Long term have a look at useing a poly house if you keep a lookout there are heaps of disused half fallen down ones around (cheap ) , when i reorganise my aquaponics im going to use one (for climate management ) . Set up so i can roll a cover over on a simple crank like the grain trucks use to cover their loads , you could have a roll of clear and one of shade cloth . I know its a major exercise but sounds like your going to need some serious hot / cold management , also with a frame up you could run a couple of ceiling fans on the extreme frost nights (friend bought 4 at a farm clearing sale for $1 ) . Not really a permie solution but it looks to me like your up against the elements .

    Back on track , maybe a mandala type pattern with a big compost pile in the centre to provide some heat so you can plant close to the pile and get melons ect under way a bit sooner and light easily managed frost covers .

    A couple of cut down tanks as raised beds painted black with covers , wrap some shadecloth around the sides for summer . I used to live near Clare and the frosts could be interesting also .
    Rob
     
  9. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    Yes, yes, and yes. Definitely all of the above. I would also like to reiterate the point made by peeble re: cold air flows and pooling (frost pockets). There is a heap of material available about the passive maintenance of cold air flows across one's site. Much of it is put out by Big Hort, or Big Aid, nonetheless we have found it of great use in our theoretical and practical applications, for example:

    FAOUN (2005) 'Chapter 6: Passive Protection Methods' in Frost Protection: Fundamentals, practice, and economics
     
  10. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    More great advice! Thank you very much. I do have a small poly tunnel to start some things off and also some raised tank beds. The hardest thing is that you get a frost and then by 11am it's mid twenties (well at this time of year anyway). It's a balance between keeping stuff frost free overnight and not cooking it during the day. In winter it's not so much a problem because it is raining most of the time in an average season and stuff we grow then is not so frost tender anyway or has lost its leaves. It is the spring, summer, autumn extremes of temps that is frustrating. The moveable covers are an excellent idea. I am going to start just small and buy a couple of those small long hooped cover things to try - a bit expensive - but might be instructive for a larger scale set up. I love the mandala idea with the compost heap in the middle. If I had access to stone I would make some keyhole set ups - they might be ideal.

    Thank you Markos for the reading material - I am on it. :)
     
  11. Lesley W

    Lesley W Junior Member

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    I hope you don't mind me adding a question to your thread Mouse. I'll be in a fairly similar situation, in Central NSW, which is 32oS but 550m ASL (which my pdc tells me is similar to growing at sea level at 37oS). Lowest ever -11oC and highest is 45oC, but more typically -7 to 38. Fortunately the land is on mid slopes and not in a depression.

    I'm still in early planning stage was wondering how much of a difference polytunnels or greenhouses make. I see that CZ10 is up to -1oC to +4oC and CZ11 is +4oC to 10oC. Does anyone know what's realistic?
     
  12. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    Yes that sounds very much like our conditions. Glad you are not in a cold air pooling depression. :) The trouble with using our polytunnel is that we have frosts up to December but of course daytime temps can be high-thirties. At that daytime temp. stuff in a polytunnel gets fried. So we have to plant out in Spring and try to keep things alive until frost is gone or move stuff in and out which is too much for me a lot of the time.
     
  13. Lesley W

    Lesley W Junior Member

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    Thanks Mouse that's so helpful, something I hadn't really thought through.

    I'm fairly good with lateral ideas :) but as for building/engineering/plan drawing my ability is less than zip... for now. However, based on what Mouse and Terra have said, how's this for a concept? Anyone with building expertise please jump in about if it would work or how you might improve in a low cost way...

    Concept: A two layer inexpensive polytunnel that works for extreme mediterranean climates, and especially valuable for transitional periods of the year when both early frosts combine with daytime heat to wreak havoc on plants (and their growers).

    Here's my design thought process...

    1. It seems clear we'd need two flexible modes: frost mode (poly), shade mode (shadecloth) hot summers and to ease through transitional periods for instance less shock between an early morning frost and, say, 20oC/68oF + in daytime in earlyish autumn as Mouse mentioned
    2. These layers need to be able to co-exist in the same space so a busy person heading off to work can quickly switch them over (energy audit). Idea (from Terra): inner shadecloth tunnel / outer poly tunnel. Perhaps having the two layers co-existing would also create greater benefits during winter.

    Consideration: How to move them quickly and have them co-exist in the same area?
    1. First thought for cheap sliding that one person can move on their own is related to sliding doors for bathrooms that are on casters. Seems that a standard floor rail for casters to glide along is a common enough floor mounting mechanism that makes sense and wouldn't be too expensive;
    2. Second consideration: To pull the poly tunnel (outer tunnel) to one side after morning frost and before it gets hotter perhaps it could be made to concertina so we pull the outer layer to one end and the shade tunnel stays in situ (on separate sliding rail and also able to concertina for full sun during ideal growing times);
    3. The tunnels could then be on polypipes, attached to small sections of wood (only where the casters are at the base), the rest of the base could be weighted down but able to be folded easily (no idea what's ideal there, errr... rope in the hem?)

    So we end up with an inner and outer tunnel, both of which can be easily pulled to one side on the casters so we have the flexibility of using one or both and switching over quickly without much effort when we need to.

    Does this sound realistic? Doable or even desirable? Or am I missing something major, like, this wouldn't stand up to even a light breeze, unless it runs along a fixed central point of attachment?
     
  14. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    Sounds like the start of a good plan along the lines of what Terra proposed. IMHO castors wouldn't work - well no, I should say they wouldn't work at my place, because they (the castors and runners) would be full of sand/soil in no time and stuffed. I think you need to have the plastic and/or shade cloth attached to rings somehow threaded on wire over hoops which can be pulled back that way. Really I am clueless about simple engineering stuff so sorry I lack coherent detail lol. Also I know from my little polytunnel that you need any structure anchored well. Ours tries to sail off regularly but we have short steel droppers (like huge tent pegs) banged into the ground and the frame attached to these. Our little polytunnel is made from concrete mesh bent into a semi-circle and with a long post sunk into the ground at either end holding it up and more mesh cut to shape for one end. The other end just has a plastic flap covering. It is not ideal but that was as much as we could put together.
     
  15. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    I mentioned the roll tarps we use on grain trucks , the same extremely simple system could be applied to covers wether they be clear poly or shade cloth or one of each . When we load trucks to deliver grain , the tarp is rolled back " sideways " and the grain loaded , tarp is (10 / 12 metres long) and about 2.75 metres wide this is easy to do in about 20 seconds . Tarp is rolled back over winched down tight and remains secure at 100kph road speeds , so should work fine on a poly house .

    I probably should wing a picture or two on but that will have to wait until i can organise it discription is just not going to cut it . Here goes anyway , so picture a pipe say 12m long attached to the edge of tarp with a bit of pipe sticking out each end of the tarp , attached to the end of the pipe is a light universal joint with a 3m pipe and crank handle attached ( universal allows turning from the ground with the roll up on top of the truck) .

    So Cover on poly house is rolled up on the pipe by turning the crank , you could roll it up a little or right up to the top you will just need lugs(short pieces of steel attached to framework) to secure the pipe at conveniant hieghts , not practical to roll right over as it would be difficult to get back over on your own , could be done with two people and a pipe / crank each end , easy to have one each side or if the poly tunnel has a suitable sun aspect the back half could remain permanent.

    To put cover back on just reverse the crank direction and roll cover back down , this is the hardest part to describe , at the point you wish to end the cover you will need "lugs" each end to secure the cover and tension it so it doesnt flap in the wind . Above i mentioned a bit of pipe sticking out each end of the tarp / cover , these are what secure the cover , once the cover is completely unrolled you just keep turning the crank in the same direction and sort of roll it up in reverse . You keep rolling until the end pipe pieces go up behind the lugs , keep turning until tight , this is what tensions the cover , just tie handle at suitable tension .

    Now that has probably made no sense at all , of course a picture is worth a thousand you know how it goes .
    Rob
     
  16. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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  17. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    I am also in favor of a zone 1 South side (or north if you are in the southern hemisphere) green houses attached to the home in order to heat the home, and grow veg inside the warmth.

    Using rocks to accumulate heat.

    Using White barked trees (birch) to reflect light.

    Ponds!
     
  18. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
  19. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    I am not convinced about the trees and hills thing- we are surrounded by a hill/dune with plenty of scrub cover and big trees and shrubs all around and down slopes toward the bottom depression and it doesn't abate the cold air or frost at the bottom.
    It was -3.5C for our frost in town the other morning and I am guessing it was lower than that here.
    Paka, if I built a greenhouse here in Oz on our north side of the house it would be good on the coldest winter nights and days but we would have to remove after winter.

    I love ponds and we have three. One large one unfinished ATM in the developing food forest, two in the veggie garden.

    I built a little wall thing around the pepino which is still alive after the frost with the broken concrete I had and I've put car tyres two high around the one chilli which might live and one capsicum.
     
  20. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Presumably because the cold lifts over the trees and then drops into the hole at the bottom. The point (as I heard it) in the Lawton interview, was that swales and trees would lift the cold on the slope, so you could grow things there.

    I'd be inclined to do some temperature measurements in different places to see what is going on - that way you can see the things you already have in place that affect temperature and frost. I think you can get temperature sensors, it was done in a food forest set up in NZ...

    https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B...edit?pli=1&docId=0B3jfWoVSxW17eHRlUklKX1ViMHc

    https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B...edit?pli=1&docId=0B3jfWoVSxW17cWQ2LVM1eU5xNmc

    There's a bit more on sensors in the manual https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B...=1TGhzTV_PdZAkRpxQgKmtzDHg0lcLzat7WXMm5-dvaHg
     

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