Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tenting tonight

By Griff Crump

"The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow . . ."  I forget who wrote that, but it was what the weatherman forecast for yesterday.  And, is so often the case, he was wrong.  No snow, after all.  BUT, he also forecast temperatures in the mid-20s for last night.  That, I had to take seriously.  Sad news for the several reblooming seedlings in the garden and for others which had stalks up but hadn't yet bloomed.  They'd be frozen by this morning.

Such early freezes are unusual here.  We had a lighter one a week ago, but socks on buds protected everything.  Last night, however, we faced the grim reaper.  So, I reluctantly cut a handsome stalk of sdlg 092U15, which I have already seen in bloom, and brought it inside to grace the table, but there were stalks up, in the garden, of two other seedlings which I have yet to see in bloom.  These, I wanted to see, if possible.  So, I tried a trick I've used successfully in the past: tenting.

In case any of you want to try it, here's how it works:

To cover a plant, I take a conical wire tomato frame, place it over the plant and anchor it in place with bricks.  (Alternately, one can snip off the circular base wire, leaving the vertical wires as prongs that can be stuck into the soil.  That's particularly practical if the foliage of your plant and its neighbors doesn't leave enough room for the bricks.)

Next, I take an old hooded sweatshirt and place it over the tomato frame, after having bent down the top wires so that the hoodie clears the top of the stalk and fits all the way to the bottom of the frame.

That done, I slip a sturdy plastic trash bag over the hoodie.

I then run an 80-foot outdoor extension cord from the house (or any other electrical source you might have in or near the garden), to which I attach a string of Christmas tree lights, with only three sockets containing bulbs.  (You may want to wrap each empty socket in plastic wrap to keep moisture out, or fill those sockets with dead bulbs, if you have that many.)  I place the three bulbs around the base of the plant, trying not to touch the foliage.  Then I plug in the cord (or flip the switch, whichever).  And, voila!  Heat!





Yes, the garden may look like Halloween, but the plants will be happy.  Notice, in the next photo, how the bags have partially puffed up as a result of the trapped heat. 


In the morning, when temps have risen above freezing, remove the plastic bags and unzip the hoodies so that the plants receive light. 

What the well-dressed iris wears for those cold nights.

So that's it, until the next freeze is forecast, when I zip up the hoodies and put the bags back on.  In the meantime, I leave the lights lit until the flower blooms.  

If you try it, let me know how it works for you!



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