- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Back in February, I wrote a blog that was a bit of a love letter to our three hens. Today we planted our tomatoes, so the love story has, sadly, come to a screeching halt.
This year’s tomatoes went into one of two raised beds, which have sat fallow for two years. I have always had to create a “dome of protection” with bird netting over the raised beds, as they abut a large open space where coveys of hungry quail lurk. And now we have to worry about our hens raiding the garden boxes, too.
Bird netting is hateful stuff. It catches on everything — branches, leaves, earrings, eyelashes. We wanted to make our lives easier, when it comes to bird netting, by building semi-permanent frames onto which we could wrap netting. I found a thorough online description for building PVC frames, and the construction began.
Our two raised beds are 4 feet by 10 feet. We started out making one rectangular frame to fit over the top of the beds. This was unwieldy to build, and would be too heavy and wobbly to move out of the way for harvesting and such. My husband decided to construct two frames, 4 feet by 5 feet each, and they went together much more easily. The beauty of two frames is they’re light. I can raise one half of the cover to harvest, add mulch or pull weeds. Knowing how tall indeterminate tomatoes can become, we plan to make two more frames that will stand taller. For now, the 3-foot height is fine.
Our hens are a bit miffed. They saw us put in the tomato seedlings this morning, and rushed over to gobble up those sweet new leaves. After much shooing and distracting with fresh, wormy piles of compost thrown their way, my husband and I were able to cover our new plants with our new frames. I’ll keep you posted on how well they work.
- Author: Karen Norton
How to protect your succulents from frost
Now that the weather is getting colder and now that I have added succulents to my garden containers, it is important to know how to protect them from frost. Usually perennials respond to winter cold by dying to the ground. In spring, their roots send out new growth. But many succulents from mild climates don't have this adaptation, and need special care when grown where temperatures drop below 32 degrees F.
Here are some tips from succulent photojournalist and author, Debra Lee Baldwin.
-- Don't peel away dry leaves attached to a succulent's trunk or stem. They protect it from temperature extremes (cold and hot).
-- Keep succulents on the dry side. Cells that are turgid are more likely to burst when the liquid within them freezes.
-- Move potted succulents beneath a deck, tree or eaves. (I try to tuck them next to the house in corners that are covered)
-- Place pots against walls, hardscape, boulders and/or shrubs that absorb and slowly release the day's heat. South- and west-facing exposures are best.
-- Drape succulents with frost cloth (sold at nurseries) or old bed sheets. Avoid plastic, which traps moisture, doesn't let plants breathe, and intensifies sunlight.
Should your succulents become frost-burned ~
-- Remove collapsed leaves only if it's likely they'll stay moist and decay. But if they'll protect the plant from future frost, leave on and prune in spring.
-- Preserve the geometry of slender-leaved succulents (such as agaves and aloes) by trimming tip-burned leaves to a point, rather than cutting straight across.
-- Chalk it up to experience. Now you know that particular plant is vulnerable and needs a protected location. (This is my gardening style that I am trying to improve by joining the Solano Master Gardener program).