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Snowbanks in front of the chickenhouse

This February, tiny farming for me is mostly about, inside, watching seedlings in a growing number of plug sheets under lights, and outside, watching the weather. In this zone, Feb is a little early for thinking about garden conditions. Well, “normally”, it would be. Now, given the increasingly erratic winter, I’m trying to figure out a new early season production strategy. Conceivably, end of March could be shockingly warm and the ground dry enough to work, and instead of just seeding early peas, I could try some super early field transplants. But then, what if winter happened to come back, not for a day or two of April snow, as sometimes happens, but for a week or two, with freezing temperatures. Early plantings could get killed off, and then I’d need a second set of seedlings! This is how I’m kinda starting to think, about trying to plant around the weather, take advantage of unpredictably good conditions, while expecting some weird bad turns as well. What do last and first average frost dates really mean, given the last five years? Is a 30-year local rainfall average still in any way a useful guideline? Am I…exaggerating? Two days ago, it was 40°F (5°C) and raining right through the night. I was sure the forecast for an even warmer Wednesday would come through to finish off another, fourth big melt-off. Instead, yesterday morning it did a sudden 180, froze up and dumped a ton of snow. Today, there are 7-8′ snowbanks all around the barnyard (from snow plowing). The once and future chickenhouse practically disappeared… ;) Will spring and summer be different from that?!

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3 Comments

  1. Steve Mudge

    While the weather is much warmer hear in Fort Worth we can still get some brutal arctic air into late March. Three years out of four you can grow brassicas and cold tolerant vegies all year round with some help from row covers, etc. But, as the local gardening book says–every once in a while it’ll get wiped out by a deep freeze–just replant! I guess what I’m saying is, you might try playing the odds a little every year with small early batches and if you get frozen out just replant–but don’t plant too much too early so if you lose its no big deal…

  2. Katie

    Wow! Those snowbanks paint a different picture than just a few days ago….I’d err on the side of safety – you don’t want to lose your seedlings. Is there anything like large rowcovers that can help protect those more hearty seedlings?

  3. Not quite sure what I’m getting at exactly, yet, but there general idea is, if this coming season is as unpredictable as this winter, which was crazier than even the last 4-5 years, then maybe I need to adjust my planning quite radically, beyond just the usual risk crops. Like, add on full extra-early and extra late plantings, and keep back-up seedlings ready in trays. This could work well for 30-60 day crops, which covers quite a lot… Full season stuff, like tomatoes, will just have to take their chances… We’ll see!

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