Skip Fall, Straight to Winter

For the past week I’ve been keeping an eye on the forecast for this predicted early winter storm, due to start entering the area like a freight train in about two hours.  Here are some recent screenshots:

 

In my experience, the “Feels Like” temperature of 19°F is what my plants will be responding to.  High winds, cold and wet – sounds like end of season to me!  About a month early.  And resulting in a 91-day growing season.  Not what I had hope for with the recent move and a very late start.

So I harvested every tomato I could find that looked like it had any chance of ripening enough indoors to produce viable seeds.

 

I set aside 19 potted plants to move to the dirt cellar under a metal halide light.  These are mostly long season hot peppers like Carolina Reaper and Bhut Jolokia.  But a cucumber plant (variety Muncher) and a watermelon plant (Jeremiah the Bullfrog) are also included.  I really would like to harvest seeds from these varieties, but the fruits are not close to mature and I want to make sure they don’t freeze.

For the moment they are well covered but not in the cellar.

I covered all plants inside the “garden cage” with heavy duty frost blanket, under which I put heaters and fans.  This meant cutting down all the support strings that held up the vines.  It will be an almost impenetrable jungle now. However, I doubt the frost blanket will stay in place, not with 50+ mph winds!

I also harvested about 70% of the cucurbits – basically all of them that I think might have a chance of producing viable seeds.

Then I covered the entire front yard with a large tarp.  I think the chances are small, but not insignificant, that some of the vines will survive this cold snap with protection.

All that effort over the past couple of months to control pollination and hand pollinate – just hate to throw in the towel so early in the growing season.  Yet I recognize a strong tendency to succumb to the Sunk Cost Fallacy.  Not sure if I’ll ever learn…

Anyhow, this is a short, interim post, motivated by anxiety about the apparent sudden end to the growing season, many weeks before I’m ready.  I’ll try to update this post later this week to report on whether this upcoming storm is as bad as the forecasters are predicting.  Snow by this time tomorrow??

 

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Interim update, Tuesday evening, after the high winds, before the hard frost.

Official high on Sunday was 99° F.  There were wildfires in the area, resulting in smoke all day yesterday and causing a red sun at sunset:

Winds this morning were insane, at times with sustained winds of over 40 mph and gusts of maybe 80 or 90.  I’ve been through tropical storms and hurricanes, and this was definitely not your average breeze coming out of the canyon!

 

The 960 sq. ft. tarp, which had been secured with about 16 two-foot lengths of rebar threaded through the grommets and driven solidly into the ground, was completely blown off the cucurbits, held in place at one corner and by the sharp wires along the top of the chainlink fence.  Grommets ripped through, tarp shredded in places.  I did not get video footage, but I imagine it behaved something like a giant kite.

Giant sunflower, planted on June 23rd, was just starting to form a head.

Flowers mostly destroyed.  It’s been too hot for most beans to even form viable blossoms, and now suddenly it’s too cold for them.

Of course the cucurbit vines where tossed and thrashed.

With the tarp destroyed, high winds forecast well into the night, and freezing temperatures predicted, I gave up on the idea of saving any melons, squash or cucumbers, so I picked the rest of them, green and immature, for eating rather than seed saving.  Sad to see at least a dozen varieties with no chance of producing viable seeds this year.

The wind pretty well tattered the shade cloth and blew many small branches off the Siberian Elm tree, including one that landed on the tomato vines 85′ from the base of the tree!

During the most intense moments of high winds, it was a veritable dust storm, with horizontal sheets of dust making seeing and breathing difficult.  One thing I had not expected was to find a layer of dust and shredded leaves on the seat of the vehicle (I had left the winds down a crack to prevent overheating the interior),

On the floor in the house (there is a 1/2″ gap between the bottom of the door and the floor),

And a layer of dust on all the tomato leaves that were more sheltered.

The frost blanket was completely blown off from the tomato plants and was torn or shredded at every location where it was attached.

I attempted to reattach the fabric after the wind had abated somewhat, but it continued to blow off.  So I threaded about 20 ten-foot long lengths of PVC pipe through the chicken wire on one side and the chain link fence on the other.

Snow has started, off and on, with up to 6″ forecast overnight.  But so far, the soil had been too warm to allow any accumulation.

And on the bright side, the latest forecast is calling for a more survivable 34°F for the low, with a “Real Feel” of 18°; the 19 most critical plants in pots are cozy in the cellar under a metal halide light;

and while covering the tomato vines again, I stumbled upon this beauty that I had somehow missed yesterday:

Variety is “Make My Day” with a weight of 1.538 lbs. – that’s just 105 days from seed to what will likely be the heaviest tomato of the season!  First time growing this variety, so no comment yet about its flavor.

I’m hoping for some survival of tomato vines, but they are really a mess after this windstorm and cutting down all the supporting twine.  We’ll see how they manage over the next 12 hours – then there is no more frost in the forecast until October 6th!

I watched brief clip on the Accuweather website which explains the link between the two typhoons which hit the Japan area over past several days and this bizarre dip in the jetstream which led to this crazy early winter weather even in the mountain states:

www.accuweather.com/en/videos/two-typhoons-tied-to-extreme-weather-in-america/rVuE6Uhf

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