Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Plunge of '15

I recall the plunge of '15, indeed I remember it well since was only three days ago. Despite bone-chilling cold in the northeastern part of the U. S., our winter here in paradise had been unseasonably warm. Despite our lack of temperatures below the mid-40's, my Tropic Beauty peach tree had fruited nicely.

At my previous stop along life's way, a 33-year layover in Oklahoma while on my way to Florida, it wasn't uncommon to have mild weather in January and February, then face a barrage of March cold fronts screaming down the plains as winter began its grudging surrender to spring. Something similar may have happened here this week, as two fronts in quick succession brought by far the coldest night of the season.

As Thursday night approached, the prognosticators kept bumping the expected low toward that oh-so-important freezing mark, settling on 32 degrees at my location four miles inland. A gentle overnight rain a couple days before left the ground helpfully moist. I wasn't very worried, but readers may recall my diligent cold weather preparations last fall, and I could hardly let the occasion pass without putting them into action. I covered the mustard greens, broccoli, and bok choy in the garden, and brought all but the cold-hardiest container plants into the garage. As for the trees, inverted trash cans went over over my jakfruit seedling and my tiny Jose Antonio avocado, a rare Cuban cultivar obtained from Wayne Clifton at the MRFC tree sale last spring. I covered only the most tender of the larger trees, a wax jambu (ever the optimist am I), a mamey sapote (an ornamental, at this latitude), and my Indonesian seedless guava (another Wayne Clifton propagation, planted in a low spot in back of the house). I wasn't sure about my two Eugenia uvalha shrubs--- one from Ray Jones and the other from Adam Schafran--- so I covered them just to be safe. With mulch mounds protecting the trunks of the covered trees and a few others, I slept soundly.

As it turned out, the temperature here dipped below freezing only briefly, if at all, and only in the more open areas. No damage at all, except for a few hibiscus leaves, and a tropical container plant that I forgot to bring in from the back porch. It looked bad, but babied for a couple of days inside the house, it has already recovered.

Fruit tree pal Kevin, a mile to the east of me and usually about 1 degree colder, also had no worries with his cold-tender species covered and heat-lit. New MRFC club secretary Josh Starry faced a bigger challenge. At his Sarasota home about a mile east of I-75, he has built a suburban permaculture showplace flying just barely under the HOA radar. He was up well into the wee hours protecting with most of the known methods, and if I know Josh, some clever new inventions as well. He got everything through, including his jakfruit and coconut trees and his garden annuals.

One never knows, but with lows in the 50's predicted into March, it looks like we can put this winter on the books. A strange one, indeed.