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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mother Nature Mother of a Freeze

 Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Chard in cinder blocks in greenhouse
Having fresh, organic greens in the winter can be a challenge. We've had broccolini, kale and collards without much trouble because they were left from the summer crops. We've also managed to keep a couple of varieties of lettuce going.

A side note here on broccolini: Some think the long, thin vegetable with a smaller head is baby broccoli, but it is not. Broccolini is actually a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan. When I say we have broccolini, I'm fudging a bit. We didn't plant the hybrid. Due to several factors of our lingering
summer, greenhouse broccoli, the stalks are long and slender with small heads. They are sweeter and much more tender. However we did it, we have broccolini!

Then my farmer son planted spinach, chard, more kale, more collards, arugula and broccoli sprouts, cabbage and brussel sprouts in cinder blocks along the sides of the greenhouse. These are all cold weather plants. (Dill, not cold weather, took up a large portion of the center. We need to start stockpiling dried dill for pickling in the summer. The dill took a freeze hit early on and we need to replant.)

Broccoli sprouts
The greenhouse is not totally weather proof if the temps drop too low which is why the dill is sick. We have one small heater inside that keeps the temps above a hard freeze if needed. Three days ago, the door was left open overnight.

Next morning ALL of those gorgeous baby plants were frozen solid.

You could break off shoots and leaves with a crunch. We can spread the blame around as each one of us thought the other one had it under control. Skip over that part.

I hit the Internet to research if there was anything we could do. Nada. But I did find hope in one site which said arugula, chard and spinach can freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, etc. and continue to grow as long as the ground doesn't freeze - in theory. We held a pinpoint of hope and moved on. We'd just have to replant.

The next afternoon, I decided to see if any of the greens were salvageable for a salad that night. What I found left me speechless. The babies looked as if nothing had happened to them. They were beautifully green and perfect to the touch. We'll be watching to see how they grow. They could still die or be sickly, but we may have lucked out.

Green bean survived for a while in the house
We've had a few helpings from our indoor green beans, but finally gave up on them. Some experiments don't work. Green beans are not cold weather. Lance started them in pots in the greenhouse and moved them to the front room window when temps dropped. Unfortunately, they pick up bugs too easy and indoor carpet harbors critters.

I thought about doing a wrap up for 2013, our second year on Tortuga Flats Farm. The struggle to get our greens going for the winter is noteworthy, so I'll do a recap and look  back next week.


  1. I was surprised to see my chard come back several times this winter already! I think the last blast of cold may have done them in, but I'm waiting to see. My kohlrabi is still hanging in - totally without any help from me. Nature is amazing!

    1. No kidding, Ashantay. And some vegetable flavors actually improve after a frost.

  2. Very cool. My fall broccoli crop has survived multiple freezing nights and come back, but then I'm in California and it gets up to the 60s during the day.

    I love reading about gardening. I think what you're doing is amazing! Best of luck in 2014. :-)

    1. We haven't been getting quite that warm during the day but sometimes the upper 50's. It's those 10 degree nights that are the killers. That's not the usual for us either. Thanks for the well wishes, Melissa. You keep growing those veggies too.

  3. I'm impressed with all the gardening. We had massive gardens when I was growing up--but somehow the 'gardening gene' didn't get passed down to me. Continued good luck to all of you and your crops :) Barb Bettis

    1. Our gardening is in the baby stages of going commercial. My son is the farmer - a new career at 40! Thanks, Barbara.