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March 3rd, 2011

Winter Losses

Homestead, Florida, may show on the map as Zone 10, but we had a Zone 9 winter this year. Seriously, our farm met the chilling requirement for ‘Granny Smith’ apples! And the peaches, mulberries, and raspberries all loved it.

Well, we lost some of the things that are more cold sensitive, in spite of me being up all night on about 12 different occasions. Lost all the peppers, of course. We also lost our cashew tree. The mangosteen did a partial leaf drop, but it’s leafed out again. The fennel ‘Finale’, a test variety for 2010, shrugged off the cold and is starting to bulb now. (Some of the fennel at our farm is going on 10 years old now. The black swallowtails love fennel foliage but do not decimate their food source. Humans could learn a lot from them.)

The two tomatoes that I trialed, ‘Bitonto’ and ‘Blush’, both came back. They got some frost burn, some continued growing from the tips, some sent out new growth from the roots. We should be able to get a month or two of production from them. Days are in the 80’s, but nights here in farm country are still going down to 60’s and 70’s, so we should get a bit more flower set. ‘Bitonto’, in fact, is already being eaten with great relish, or even by itself.  ‘Blush’ has set fruit but is not quite ripe yet.

When it was obvious that our winter was going to be colder than usual, I went ahead and planted ‘Magnolia Blossom’ snap pea. These guys performed reasonably well, considering the Florida climate, but now with days too hot, they’re starting to give it up. Never got enough production to cook, but they are great to eat raw in the garden.  —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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