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January 7th, 2011

Warding Off Frost in Florida

I’m sure those of you who are fans of the Weather Channel know what kind of December we Florida farmers had! Even though Homestead is south of Miami, we tend to run anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees colder than Miami. (No concrete, asphalt, etc. to absorb heat during day and release at night.) Several times our nighttime lows dipped to the middle 30’s.

At first glance, that doesn’t seem so bad to gardeners from colder zones, but December is the height of our planting season. This would be the equivalent of northerners getting those low temps in June, right?

Luckily, I can keep most of the farm warm with our drip irrigation system. This just involves turning on the pump at a certain low temp, and praying for the best.

The real problem for us is the microgreens that we grow. They need water to keep them warm, but too much water will do them in. They are a big chunk of our farm income, so I stay up all night and check on them every half hour.

I’ve wanted to be a farmer ever since spending time on my Uncle Ralph’s farm from preschool on. Sometimes around 3 a.m., though, I think of the adage: “Be careful what you wish for.” —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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January 5th, 2011

Hot-Blooded Hens

bill_tnLeslie, the hens in your coop probably kept their water warm even when the temperature outside dropped below freezing.

I read of a small CSA farmer in the Santa Cruz, California, area. She penned her chickens in large runs with tropical fruit trees in them. In winter she would cover the whole thing with plastic. Said the heat from the chickens would give her about 6 degrees of frost protection, which was enough to prevent damage to her fruit trees. (Santa Cruz doesn’t get very cold unless you go east into the mountains.) —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California

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January 4th, 2011

Snug in Their Bed

leslie_d_tnLast week when the weather forecast was for 25F overnight, I didn’t give it much thought until I looked out of my window at the pansy seedlings I just planted on the chicken coop roof. There wasn’t much chance they would live, as little as they are, so out came the bed sheet. I used to sleep on burgundy sheets, thank you. Now the chickens and flowers are nestled in them—a queen-size fitted sheet for my “Queens.”

sheetThis gives new meaning to a flower bed.

I was amazed that the water inside the coop didn’t freeze. It got down to 25F, and was windy, and the water out it the pen froze. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada

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