Arctic Express
Mon, 15 Jan 2007 12:13:51 PST
In the U.S. midwest, an icestorm has created havoc for many including plant growers. Here in California, an Arctic cold mass has devastated citrus and other agricultural crops with freezing nighttime temperatures in the teens and twenties fairhenheit. This occurs every 10-15 years. This can also devastate our winter growing geophytes, particularly the So. Africans. An "Arctic Express" did that to one of the finest U.S. 20 year collections of S.African Pelargoniums, Moraeas, etc. 15 years ago in the backyard of Stan Farwig and Vic Girard. All they could do was grieve. That is why I grow my So. African moraeas, gladioli, etc. in pots also, so I can bring them into the living room on tarps (my wife makes me do the vacuuming afterward.) However, over the years, due to pot multiplication,(I suspect they breed at night), I have 150 pots more than my house can accomodate. My wife won't let me use the bedroom, kitchen, etc. However, I have found a succesful method that has saved my outdoor pots which might be useful to others. All of my pots are on plastic lattice work supported on sturdy stands 4 feet high(at 75, I'm tired of bending over). With the thinnest rigid PVC(grade 200) pipe, hoops are made over the plants. The height depends on the height of the plants(mine are 2-8 in). The less air volume, the higher the temperature. Christmas(whoops,Holiday) lights are carefully placed on the pots. The tiny lights are easily available, although regular size might be better. Then cover with old blankets from Thrift stores, etc. and cover that with big inexpensive tarps which overhang to the ground. This both insulates and keeps frost moisture or precipitation from wetting the blankets(a real nuisance). I don't use plastic tarps underneath because I am told that unlike fabric covers, plants will freeze if in contact with plastic covers at freezing temperatures. The last several nights my pots have enjoyed a balmy 40+ F. while outside it was 20 F. In ground plants(2-4 in.) were treated similarly without the hoops. This summer, after dormancy sets in and the temperatures start reaching 95-100+ F., I will use taller hoops with shade cloth to prevent overheating. This is my method. Tips on better methodology would be appreciated.  Bob Werra --inland No. Calif.

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