When you pick up a perennial this spring, check the tag to see where it was grown. If it came from Oregon, chances are it was watched over by Jeff Stoven, who’s keeping a watchful eye on his charges during a cold snap that has tender plants at risk of freezing their buds off.
As the Head Grower for Bailey Nurseries in Yamhill, Stoven is responsible for over 100,000 potted plants. As temperatures plunged to 18 degrees at the end of February, he sprang into action to keep the quarter-million dollar crop protected, not with row covers or tarps. Instead, the blanket he swaddled them in was a coating of ice.
“Because our spring was so early and warm in February, the plants started to grow,” he said, “and now we’re at a critical time because it got really cold and we have to protect the new growth.”
Using ice to protect citrus crops in Florida and Georgia is common practice, but many don’t realize that the technique is widely used in the nursery industry as well. As water changes to ice, heat is released and protects the plant from cold. The trick is to keep the conversion of water to ice going for as long as you have cold temperatures.
“We come in just before the freezing temperatures and turn on the sprinklers a little at a time,” Stoven said. “We get them a little wet, and ice forms around stems and buds. We’ll continue to the water on and off for the next few hours, but we don’t want to overdo the amount of water, because we don’t want a huge glob of ice to form.”
Other techniques for plant protection vary, including lighting fires and moving the warm air with fans, or flying a helicopter low and slow over the field to move the air, but Stoven sticks to the proven method of icing in the plants. You’ll see the results this spring in the garden centers.
- Protecting spring blooms from later winter snow, frost (cleveland.com)
- Cold Weather Tips for Your Plants – Before, During and After (hcgreenthumb.wordpress.com)