October 30, 2020
The moment we had been preparing for finally arrive last night. We had our first freeze. We finalized the plastic over the porch door and restored the greenhouse cloth over the outside beds yesterday afternoon. When Melissa got up this morning it was 32F according to the weather app on her phone. When she went onto the porch the thermometer said it was a toasty 40F in our converted greenhouse. I checked the plants outside, and they were all still covered. I guess we will never really know about them until later in the year.
Melissa had reached out to a grower friend in Little Rock to see what he did with his plants over the winter. His advice was to keep them in a temperature range of 40-50F in bright light conditions. They need to be properly hardened off by no fertilizer after August and no water after October. Most can ride through the winter in a desiccated dormant state until March. He said the problem with this advice is having the capability of keeping them in the 40-50F range. Even with a greenhouse, the sunshine is going to drive daytime temps up in the 80’sF or even higher without adequate ventilation on cool days to bring it back down.
Melissa’s fear with the porch greenhouse is not letting the temperature go too low, but instead having it too high. At least on the porch we have the advantage of being out of the direct sun which should help. Using the Velcro should also let her take down parts of the sheeting on warmer days and the ceiling fan will provide ventilation. If it does get warmer it does not hurt the plants, they will just not get the dormancy they need to flourish. My biggest fear for the outside plants is wind and freezing rain. They are hardy but a sleet might weigh down the netting or freeze the plants. I am still counting last night as a success.
Thoughts: Keeping the indoor plants at the optimal 40-50F range is a bit problematic (read: not going to happen). I used to keep the summer cool (when I was single) set at 80F until I found the humidity caused mold, so now we keep it at 78F. We have ceiling fans throughout the house and that generally keeps Melissa happy. During the winter I have always kept the heat at 68F. I can always put on more clothes if needed and it saves energy. With the succulents, we made the decision to drop it to 65F. It is not as low as they would like but is more tolerable for the humans. One of the adaptations humans made early on was the ability to control the environment. Like the porch, we can take things off or on and even use fans to get the temperature we want. We made a conscious decision to do what is right for the survival of the plants, as much as we are able. We need to make a similar decision with the world. Without the plants, we will also die. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.