December 15, 2020
I have been so concerned with protecting Melissa’s succulents that I forgot about the annual protections I needed to be taking care of. While the River Valley does not have many days below freezing, we do get a few. Some nights even drop to the point of a hard freeze. We have had several nights of sub-freezing and even temperatures into the low 20F. While I was checking my patio beds, I noticed the hoses still connected to the faucet. This is a good way to freeze the water left in the pipes. I quickly removed the hoses from the front and back of the house and placed the Styrofoam shields over the faucets to provide protection.
While I have often heard (and obviously used) the term “hard freeze,” I have not known the true definition of the term until today. A frost refers to the conditions that allow a layer of ice crystals to form when water vapor condenses and freezes without first becoming dew. Frost may happen when the “surface” air temperature (officially measured at 4 or so feet above ground) is below 36F. (Ground temperature, meanwhile, may be below 32F, and below frost point.) Various factors must be present, such as clear skies, moisture, and calm or light winds.
A freeze can happen when the surface air temperature falls to 32F or below, and frost may or may not form. A light freeze (between 32F and 29F) can kill vulnerable plants. A moderate or “hard” freeze (between 28F and 25F) can cause wide destruction to most plants. A severe or “killing” freeze (24F and below), causes heavy damage to most plants. Many plants can survive a brief frost, but very few can survive a severe freeze. That is true for water faucets as well.
Thoughts: When I left my house for a week my first winter back in Kansas, I was vigilant to turn off the heat and water to save energy. When I returned I walked in on 45F. I forgot that Kansas winters are colder than the Bay Area. I turned everything back on and was glad it did not kill any of my plants. The next time I turned the heat down but not off. Shielding items (or people) from harm varies with what is being protected. When I placed the shields over my faucets, I was trying to shield them from the freezing effect of the night air. When I wear my mask shield, I am trying to protect my neighbors from exposure to the virus. They have both been proven effective. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.