September 24th, 2020
Who would have thought we were headed for three significant frosts in a row. It may well be a record for this early in the season. It is definitely the first time I have seen it in my nearly 30 years in this business. We are near the east end of the Annapolis Valley and the farther you go west the worse the frost damage was (and in general it is because they are farther from the Minas Basin).
We are able to protect ourselves from frost to some degree on a limited acreage by covering the fields with a very thin blanket we call floating row cover. It’s a product made from very thin strands of plastic and looks a lot like a fabric softener sheet except much thinner and much larger. The sheets we use are 52.5 feet wide and 1000 long (that’s 1.2 acres!) and the entire sheet weighs just 175 pounds….that’s pretty thin. We generally get two to three seasons use for making some crops earlier and for frost protection. . With the sheet laying on top of the crop canopy we can get protection down to about minus two Celsius with only a medium scorching of the top leaves that it contacts. It’s a great system because it’s passive; (we put it out and go home, everyone likes that).
The problem with frost this early in the season is that we have a fairly large acreage of frost sensitive crops that are still growing (more than 25 acres) and only have a maximum of about 10 acres worth of floating covers and people power to dispense them on the short notice we often get of an impending frost. We were able to cover and save about 4 acres of beans and 1 1/2 acres of Roma tomatoes and peppers with the covers.
The field tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are grown under a large “cold frame” (unheated greenhouse) so all we had to do was pull down the open plastic sides and they were OK.
We used to use irrigation to try to save corn and other crops but it’s not my favourite because it requires being out in the night to start, run and monitor it. It also requires a lot of run time which burns a lot of diesel and waterlogs the land. Corn seems to fare quite well in this scenario but my experienced with tomatoes, beans and cucumbers is that the water and ice buildup do just about as much damage as the frost would have in the first place. So, having twisted my own rubber arm, I go to bed on time and sleep well rather than torment myself by getting near hypothermia while I watch my crops get damaged anyway.
Corn can also stand the cold better than some frost sensitive crops. It can take minus one for an hour or two. This time around we got really lucky with the corn. It was planted on slightly higher ground and took only minor damage and should be just fine if it’s still standing on Thursday. (Cold air drains downhill because it is more dense and heavy than warmer air which results in lower temperatures in hollows or the lower side of a field)
Our sweet potato plants are toast! We made no attempt to cover them because we were occupied covering other things. BUT, there is already a good crop of sweet potatoes safely in the ground (a bigger crop than last year) It would have been nice to gain a couple more weeks of growth but I guess I can’t complain (although I probably will).
Cucumbers and pickling cukes are the other sensitive crop still out there. We didn’t cover them because they were well past their prime so they are now done but we didn’t lose much potential.
So; much excitement down on the farm! And the forecast is for 27 Celsius on Saturday!!
Thanksgiving is fast approaching and we have a holiday veggie box available online with the option to add turkey, wine and desert. Everything is Nova Scotia grown!
Should also mention I've been told to make a "guest appearance" on Saturday!
Keep eating your veggies!