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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Germinating Seed in Cold Soils and Winter Protection

            Temperatures turned cold this past week in mid November. Historically, we still have about three or four more weeks of warm weather so it probably will get warm again soon. But if you plant vegetables from seed, these cold soil temperatures should still be warm enough to germinate radish, peas, beets, possibly carrots and turnips.

Fluff up the soil with compost. 
            Raised beds in full sun and “fluffed up” with compost have the best chance of germinating seed during cold weather. If the soil is compacted and difficult to dig, it will stay cold and germination of seed will be slow, difficult and maybe impossible.

Tomato germinating under plastic in January
            If soil temperatures are suspiciously cool, peg the surface of the planting area with clear plastic and cover the edges with soil. After one week, cut a slit in the plastic and plant directly in this warmer soil through the slit.

Use Frost Blankets
            Expect freezing temperatures sometime during the first three weeks of December. Watch for a cold front like we just had and get ready to throw a frost cover or light blanket over tender citrus trees if weather alerts are predicting a freeze. Frost covers or frost blankets are the best.
Floating row crop cover and frost blankets for winter protection of raised beds
What? No citrus fruit again?
          Most important is to keep cold wind from damaging the youngest shoots. Wrapping the tree with Christmas tree lights may help if the lights are not LEDs and if the tree is protected from the wind. If the tree is unprotected, it may not have any flowers or fruit this next year. If temperatures are unusually cold, the tree may not have fruit next year regardless of what you do. A lot depends on where you live in the Valley.

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