It is obvious with such a record warm March, trouble lies ahead. Our normal hard freeze (below 28F) occurs in late April. Our last frost date (32F and below) is around mid May. Most fruit trees, when in bloom, can take an air temp (at the 5 foot level) of 28F, but are destroyed at a temp of 23F–in between who knows what and depends on the type of fruit, whether there is a wind or not, the humidity, and a bunch of other factors. Warm weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers are sometimes damaged at an air temp of 35F and usually destroyed when it gets down to 31F. Right now we are only concerned about the fruit since while we have planted cool weather veggies like peas, radishes, lettuce and kohlrabi, (which can really take the low temps) it will be over a month before we set out our warm stuff without protection (e.g. high and low tunnels). Now, there is something one can do to help fruit trees through freezes–it is preparing the soil in the orchard to get rid of the grass and weeds so bare ground is showing.
We have already started to do this. We are discing the orchard to cut into the grass a couple of inches. Since our main apple orchard (the one you can see from the road) has very heavy (clay) soil it is well suited to keep frost away as long as their isn’t heavy grass/weed growth. Clay soil you see, has a high heat content AND has great conductivity so the heat from down in the ground is conducted to the surface as the surface soil cools–it acts nearly (perhaps even better at times) than if the trees were planted in a lake. However, keeping the weeds down is time consuming and costly (fuel expenses) but if it protect the crop it is well worth it. In orchards planted in light dry sand bare ground has little affect. If the sandy soil is moist (not wet), however, some good is done.
Last night, it got down to 29.7F by the lake, 28F in Fremont at the Waste water facility just south of the city, 28F at our market and 29F in our orchard. Since according to the literature the critical temp for 10% kill for apples in tight cluster is 27F, there should be no significant damage. There is another freeze warning for tonight…
The Shadbush, also called Juneberries, are now in full bloom. The Shadbush receive its name since the early settlers noted that the Shad started running when a certain shrub bloomed. They named this shrub, the Shadbush. It is also called Juneberry since it has a tasty berry in June. Since there are no Shad in the Newaygo Chain of Lakes, there are plenty of bluegills and they apparently move into the shallows at the same time. Even though the Shadbush have bloomed earlier than anybody can remember, their blooming is coinciding with the bluegills moving into the shallows. If you are looking for tasty bluegills, pick a nice sunny day and you should have luck by fishing the shallows. When do bluegills start spawning? That’s an easy one. When the Dogwoods and Redbud are in full bloom!
Well we planted nearly an acre of Snow and Sugar Peas today. You would think planting in March it would be nice and cool work, wouldn’t you. Well, it was hot, with light winds and temperatures in the mid 80s. Grand Rapids broke their record high temp for March with 87F. The last record was set…yesterday with a high of 83! Since Magicland Farms grows apples, peaches and plums, in addition to an enormous variety of vegetables (including of course peas) I have to admit I haven’t slept well the last week–because of the weather. It is way too early for fruit trees to start blooming and the few apricot trees we have are starting to do jut that! On the surface it seems for sure fruit is going to be wiped out in Michigan and neighboring states–a similar thing happened in 1945. The only bright spot is that while trees are blooming about a month ahead of normal, the snow in Canada has also melted about a month earlier than normal. Winnipeg Canada had a record high temp for March, the other day with a temp of 78F. Since that is where the cold has to come from it must turn a lot colder up north before a freeze can occur–so far that hasn’t occurred, although wait a week and we shall see.
Getting back to our pea planting–we planted Oregon Giant and Dwarf Gray Sugar Snow peas and Cascadia and Sugar Sprint Sugar Snap peas. You eat pod and all of both Snow and Sugar Snap peas. The main difference is that with snow peas you pick them when they are young and the peas inside are real small and with the Sugar Peas they are tastier when the pod is nearly full.
This photo was taken yesterday March 20.
It looks like my test of growing lettuce in Michigan during the winter in an unheated greenhouse was a success. However, the unbelievably mild winter skewed things so I can’t say it is a sure thing. Anyway, it looks like this
April we will have all the nice tasty lettuce we can eat–perhaps we will start at it in a few days.
Photo taken March 20, 2012
I have to admit, I was not a happy camper when I saw the daffodils starting to bloom. I have never seen anything like this–daffodils blooming before the astronomical spring starts! You see, while we grow lots and lots of vegetables of all kinds, we also grow fruit–primarily apples and peaches. While no fruit trees are blooming yet, the weather looks like it will stay very warm for a couple days and then cool off just a bit but still be above normal for perhaps a couple of weeks. Since our normal freeze date–which can damage fruit–is in early May, on the surface it looks real bad for fruit this year. I keep looking at Canada’s weather and, except for the extreme northwest part of that country, it has also been extremely warm–in many places even warmer (on a relative basis) than the US. Perhaps, just perhaps this means we won’t get our normal late April, early May freeze. We are praying that we don’t and still hoping for cooler weather the next few weeks to slow stuff down. Please pray with us. Remember, if there is a general freeze, fruit prices will sky rocket!
What We are Planning On Doing About the Likelihood of an Upcoming Damaging Frost/Freeze
First off pray, that it doesn’t happen…that is the most important. Also, my mother always said “You do your best and God does the rest!” So, I feel there is something we can do and we are now in the process of doing it. Interested on what it is? Keep visiting my blog and you will find out!
My book “Snowball Launchers, Giant Pumpkin Growers and other COOL CONTRAPTIONS” has a project on making my Sidewinder Thingamajig. What does the gizmo do? Well, briefly it detects shortwave infrared waves! Shortwave infrared waves are used by most remote control units (also referred to as “thingies”) One purpose of the Sidewinder Thingamajig is to check if the remote control is working. If it is and it is pointed at the thingamajig, a red LED will light. Why is it called Sidewinder Thingamajig? Well, the Sidewinder Rattler detects its prey by sensing the infrared radiation all warm blooded animals give off. One caveat in my projects name: the Sidewinder Rattler is more sensitive to long wave infrared radiation and not as sensitive to shorter wavelength, which is the type the Sidewinder Thingamajig is most sensitive to. Another device is also called a Sidewinder–it is the Sidewinder missile which is used to tract down and destroy jet airplanes. Jet engines produces lots of heat which produces lots of infrared radiation. The Sidewinder missile enters the exhaust pipe of the engine and blows the engine up. Flares are used as a defense measure to confuse the missile’s electronic systems. By the way, the Sidewinder Thingamajig might just make a great starting point for a Science Fair project!
The sun has exploded again! The huge flare is shooting out as I write this–I don’t know if it is headed this way since I don’t know yet which sunspot it came from. The other flares this past two weeks came from a sunspot that is moving away from us so if it is that one, the cme will miss us.
We have taken some of our apples out of our storage and now have them for sale. The prices of our Spies are $5 a half bushel, Empire and Red Delicious are $4 a half and our Jonathans $3 a half. We should have some Russet out for sale in a few days. I’ll let you know. Right now we will mostly be on self-serve and open from 10 to 5. If you plan on using a Bridge/EBT card please call us at 652-2368 to make arrangements before you come.
Looks like next week we will have apples for sale. The apples are good for sauce, pies, juice… Our parking lot looks like it will be in pretty good shape–the mud season seemed to only last three days this year! The way things are going we could get into the field in another week–even in our heavy soil. Of course, shady areas will take longer, as usual. More about our apples in the next post. By the way, magiclandfarms, is now back on facebook and twitter!
Lettuce we transplanted to our unheated greenhouse on 2/9/2012. Photo above taken on 3/2/12.
On 1/17/12 we planted Freckles, Green Ice, Winter Density and Buttercrunch lettuce in a flat. See my earlier post with photos. Then we transplanted some of the plants (we planted too many seeds for the small space we devoted to the test lettuce planting) into the unheated greenhouse after preparing the soil. See my earlier post. While I call it an unheated greenhouse I do have an automatic control that turned on soil heating cables and a red 60 watt light bulb when the temp dropped below 35F. Today I removed the soil heating cables since I don’t think it’s going to get super cold again this year. By the way, the outside air temp got down to near zero twice. Also, on a couple of sunny days the temp underneath the low tunnel (which are inside the greenhouse) got to over 100F a couple of times. So far we are pleased on how the lettuce are doing. Here is another photo:
Close-up of Green Ice and Winter Density
Important News Flash! Maple sap is running!
Believe it or not, today, March 1st, is the first day of spring! “What about March 20th?” you might ask. Well, that too is the first day of spring. To make things even more confusing, this year April 4 is also the first day of spring. The difference in dates mentioned is based on how you define spring. Meteorologically Spring begins on March 1 and ends on May 31, Astronomically Spring begins on March 20th and ends on June 19 and economically it begins on April 4th with the first game of Major League Baseball (Cardinals vs Marlins), which is played in Miami and ends on May 27, the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.
Now we get to the weather next week. Its going to be unusually warm. Too warm I fear. Those who have been anxiously waiting for winter to really get started will have to wait longer–perhaps even to November or December. This is a good time for those meteorologists who have been first calling for a severe winter–they were sure of it–and then calling for a severely cold start to March, to be humbled. While I was calling for a rather mild winter, I am shocked by the lack of cold weather in February. I have never seen anything like it! While the start of March will perhaps be too warm (get trees out of dormancy too early) I would be surprised to see March average out warmer than normal–although that’s the way it now looks, and I am not too happy about that! What about normal weather! Where has it gone? If trees start to get too active next week, I will post about it!