Snow in Texas!! 12/10/2017

Thursday afternoon people at work were talking about snow in the forecast. Everyone got all excited about the nearly invisible flakes that you could hardly see amidst the sprinkles.

I’m used to a few inches once or twice a year in Washington enough to make a winter wonderland appearance. Here’s a typical winter snow in Washington:

IMG_0118So needles to say I was not impressed with the nearly invisible “snow” everyone was raving about. As 5:00pm rolled around it was nearly completely dark outside and lo and behold actual snow chunks were falling from the sky. As I got in the car around 6:00 pm I was shocked to discover it was 36 degrees. The closer I got to the house the colder it became. I raced into the house with a 34 degree temperature outside. Snow was already accumulating on my unprotected nightshades.

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I ran out and since it had not yet hit freezing decided to salvage what I could of the eggplant, tomatoes and peppers.

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This is all I could manage to find with the headlamp getting covered by my hood as it slipped down repeatedly. I’ve had so much practice covering up the plants at night since October’s occasional cold fronts that it only takes about 5 minutes now.

This picture was taken about 5 minutes after I had finished protecting my plants. You can see it was accumulating quicker than I expected at least. With the plants as protected as I could get them I decided to do something I’ve never done before and take a jog in the snow. I got to see a winter wonderland in Texas with children planing in the front yards and making little snowmen.

The sidewalks were fairly clear and it was a fantastic experience. The temperature got down to 29 degrees and all the snow that fell was preserved for the morning. I headed out to take some pictures. It’s not often you can see snow on a banana plant.

I love the contrast of the snow-covered lounge chairs. It’s so bazar how just two days prior My husband and I had been relaxing in the 80 degree weather on them watching the birds and the butterflies.

I noticed there were plenty of hot peppers that I had missed on the garden salsa plants so Since it was still below freezing I decided to pick them all, give them a quick rinse and put them straight in the freezer so they wouldn’t deteriorate and I can use them along with the other frozen peppers this winter and fall.

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Here are some before and after pictures:

The same patch in the long bed a week earlier and the day after the snow.

IMG_0145The above are the tomatoes the next morning. I decided to uncover them first thing upon waking because the second veggie bed gets such little direct sunlight I thought it could use all it could get. Well the plants hadn’t thawed out yet. There is significantly more hard freeze damage to them now than is shown in this picture, but even so most of the tropicals in the yard still show about half more life than expected. I don’t have hope that I will continue to be spoiled with nightshades going forward. But it is possible the plants themselves will pull through and give me a head start for next year. I may just decide to rip them out if they end up looking ragged enough. It’s fun to experiment. I was hoping that the cold had made my persimmons a little softer, but after checking today they are still nearly as hard as a rock. I need to start looking up recipes for those! Happy gardening!

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Preparing For the Cold Front 10/28/2017

Temperatures predicted in the 30’s!? That’s unseasonably cold here. The first year I had a garden here we picked peppers clear through November. The third year they made it through the winter and I had mini pepper trees. This year a cold front of two days in the 30’s is threatening my summer eggplants, tomatoes and peppers that I’m trying to keep producing until the end of November. I don’t generally trust future weather reports until the day before. Weather underground still says 39 degrees and a news report said mid 30’s tonight. Time to make some preparations.

Yesterday was spent picking all the fruit from the plants that needed salvaging, then figuring out how to preserve them. That, and digging up any plants I wanted to save for the winter. The farmers almanac predicted this year to have a colder winter than average. Considering the past two winters have been extremely mild and above average I’m guessing this one is going to be a nasty winter where I’ll be learning what is, and is not, truly cold hardy for this climate.

The majority of what is out there right now will be fine in the cold it’s really just the three lovely nightshade beauties that I wanted to save; peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.

Preparations

  • Chile Pequin Pepper – This native has the ability to die down to the ground and come back again. Not sure what temperature ruins the fruit so In an effort to be diligent I picked another large batch of these guys to preserve and a few berries for seeds to try to grow more of these plants just in case. If the seeds germinate and I get new bushes I’ve got a spot in the front yard for them.IMG_9777
  • Tomatoes – All of the tomatoes I have are of the indeterminate variety meaning they give you some tomatoes over the span of their life rather than determinate tomatoes which give you a ton of fruit all at once and are then done. I cut them back in late July and they have set fruit but hardly any are ripe though they are approximately the mature size. None of them even have a tinge of pink. I decided to pick all the fruit that were larger than a half dollar and take them inside to preserve either by ripening in a dark place, or more likely, making green tomato something with them.

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  • Hot Peppers – Picked all the peppers that were useable size even if they were a little immature. Here’s hoping the little stumps of pepper that were just starting to grow will make it and that the plant will continue flowering. Below on the top there’s a pile of our hot peppers garden salsa variety (or favorite) the bottom left is mostly mature serrano peppers only one fat one. and the bottom right are called cow horn peppers which were an experiment this year. I decided to freeze them to make hot pepper jelly a little later on.

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  • Eggplant – I’d already made baba ganoush with the last ripe eggplants we’ll probably see for the season.

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  • Bush beans – I don’t really know how cold bush beans can withstand. In Washington they were a late spring/summer plant that was ripped out when it stopped producing at some point in fall. Fall planting of beans is completely new to me so just to be on the safe side all the beans that weren’t very tiny were picked. While I was out there I also picked the dried tepiary beans and some radishes that were ready.

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  • Cuttings – I took another round of cuttings from plants like the pineapple sage and lemon verbena to try to propagate additional plants. Here’s how to propagate your own plants from cuttings.

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Pretty much everything else is cold weather hardy. No need to worry about the garlic, greens, cruciferous plants like kohlrabi and cauliflower. Double checking the pineapple gauva gave me three extra fruit. The fig tree has immature fruit which I considered picking and pickling but the fruit in a sugar syrup. This works well for 3/4 ripe figs. However mine were still so tiny and rock hard that it didn’t seem like they would taste very good so they got to stay on the tree.

Protection

We have two large plankets that are 10X20 which are the main defense available against cold weather so I wrapped the plants up as best as I could and hoped for the best. To do this I used binder clips to secure planket to the cattle panel trellis or the wire low fence surrounding around all my beds to keep out the neighborhood cat.

 

In addition to covering the summer producing crops, it’s about time to bring in plants for the winter to save every year from the cold weather. There’s only a few sensitive plants that are worth babying for us. Generally if it won’t make it through the winter I don’t want it in the yard. My personal exceptions are:

  • One huge pot of aloe which has helped with my many sun burns and cooking burns from the oven or stove.
  • A chunk of lemon grass to carry forward from year to year so I don’t need to repurchase it again.
  • One banana incase the other’s don’t make it. (generally they die down to the ground but come spring they pop back up).
  • My pineapple top experiment
  • One paddle from a spineless opituna cactus (I love prickly pear fruit).
  • One lemon verbena. The smell made by this plant is near and dear to my heart even though it’s not the most beautiful thing in the world.

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The opituna is hiding in the back, I’ll have to give it a more prominent sunny position. I also replanted a little of the aloe as insurance in case the large pot was somehow unable to be brought in.
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With the help of my husband, we got the large half whiskey barrel of aloe inside which was surprisingly heavy. The other pots were small so it was easy to move them myself. They now sit where they will stay until spring when the danger of the last frost has left. Inside by some windows in our breakfast nook. Mr. cat has enjoyed swatting at the lemon grass stems and chewing on the ends of the plant.

Now all that’s left to do is to prepare the food that was brought in.

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