This past week has been a challenge and a gift. Snow, a rarity in our part of the country, came in big fat flakes for days. In two chapters and with intermittent freezing rain or sleet. In the North, they would laugh us aside, but truly here in the Deep South, we’re not equipped mentally or practically to deal with extreme cold.

Last winter, I skated by in the new hoop house due to mild temperatures. Ah, that novice confidence… Here’s what I’ve learned this week.

  • Cool flowers like the ranunculus, anemones, and sweet peas took frigid temps but we covered with frost cloth and burlap. The Brits are right. Sweet peas can be covered in ice and still smile later.
  • Use whatever you have available, even if it’s not pretty. Propane heat is propane…whether it’s in a furnace or fish cooker. Yes, we used an open flame fish cooker probably in violation of every OSHA standard per my husband. But, we managed to keep the house in the 20s and 30s when it was a frightening 1 outside. 1? I didn’t even know a thermometer would go that low.
  • Check the house often, if nothing else to ease your nerves. I have newly transplanted lavender plugs over which I fretted.
  • I have one small tented area of the house for plants that can’t freeze and I kept a small electric heater in that spot, making a sizeable contribution to our local utility, no doubt.
  • At the advice of my seasoned grower friend, he advised me to watch the snow load. So, while everyone else was bundled drinking cocoa, Kole and I were sweeping off the hoop house with a large shop push broom. Do it gently! Even with the ice, it took just a nudge to have the avalanche slide off.
  • Even when it’s freezing out, if the sun comes out, you’re now on the other end of the spectrum. The house went to 80 degrees in about the time it took for me to finish a cup of coffee.

Right now, the crops and plants look fine. We will see in the coming weeks

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Karen Ott Mayer

Karen Ott Mayer

Freelance writer and editor, small business and farm owner

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