Strategies for Dealing with Warm Weather During Winter

How about this weather we’re having?  It’s great if you like long walks and sunny skies. It’s great for getting the stir crazy toddler out of the house.  I’ve enjoyed the extended turnip harvest, I can honestly say I’ve never been able to harvest those in Jan before. There are, however, some aspects of it that are not so great.  Those of us who depend on the cold weather or snow in some fashion need to be able to deal with their absence.

Cold Storage – Those of us with storage that depends on cold temps have a problem when those temps are up in the 50’s.  If your cold storage is a pit outside or something similar, your options are limited.  You can dig it deeper for more insulation, or pile more insulation on top, but if the ground temps are warm, they’re warm, and you’re fighting a losing battle.  Eat the food faster because it’s going to spoil.  Use alternate preservation methods if you start to lose things.  For example I’ve been making large batches of applesauce to handle all the apples I have going bad.  If your nights are getting cold enough you can try letting some of that cold air in and covering it back up during the day.  You’ll get some success, depending on your insulation, but you also might see more critter damage.

Snow cover – It seems counter intuitive, but if there’s less snow cover, you’re going to need hardier plants.  I know I count on the snow to give my overwintering plants another layer of insulation.  Without that layer, they have only the mulch I provide to keep them from heaving/getting too cold/etc.  If I had unlimited money I could go out and buy some more mulching materials and make up the difference. Or, I can make sure my plantings are hardy enough and deep enough to handle the cold without that insulating layer of snow.

Snow melt – Lack of snow also means a lack of snow MELT. Again, this is something I plan on for my spring plantings.  In “normal” snow-fall years I can count on spring melt to be sufficient for my hardneck garlic, for at least the first couple weeks of growth.  Same for peas, I can sow them right in the snow if I time it right, and they’ll take full advantage of that snow melt.  Spinach and other early spring greens, same story. Permaculture plantings, that snow melt is one of the triggers for breaking dormancy.  In a larger sense, commercial farmers count on that snow melt for general soil moisture levels, if not for a specific crop germination.  There are ways to deal with lower snow fall totals.  If you’re counting on the snow melt for a particular crop, move what snow you can find to that planting. i.e. shovel it from your lawn to your asparagus bed, or shovel your walkways onto your pea plot.  You need the exercise anyway right? :-D Redirect roof melt to a veggie bed if you have the materials to do it. Doesn’t have to be fancy, my roof usually melts in one day. I don’t worry about catching it most years, but if I really needed that moisture I would certainly pay more attention and make the effort to put it where I wanted it.

If the weather has tricked your perennials into breaking dormancy, DON’T ENCOURAGE THEM.  Don’t water them, or feed them.   If they blossom, you can’t stop it, but keep in mind that’s one blossom you won’t see in spring.  No big deal if it’s flowers, but a bigger deal if it’s berries or fruit.  If they are sending up vegetative growth, make sure to find some mulch to increase the coverage on that plant.  Anything you can do to protect that growth from the cold that will come the rest of the month will help the plant survive it’s miscalculation.

Do take the time to enjoy it though, even if you can’t get onto your favorite ice-fishing spot. :-D

– Calamity Jane