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-   -   "Marginal" Protection (

endeitz 09-22-2007 09:02 PM

"Marginal" Protection
I have read about several techniques for protecting plants in the winter, from digging them up, to building "straw silos" around them with burlap over the top.

I am in 8b, and we get 15-20F a few nights during the winter. This has previously killed back my Dwarf Ornicos to the ground. The Bajoos lose some leaves but continue to grow in fits and starts through the winter. These are the only varieties I have tried (although I have some small D. Brazilian and Saba plants that I am growing in pots (these will be sunroomed over the winter, and in the ground next spring).

My understanding is that some of these varieties, i.e. D. Brazilian and D. Ornico have survived slightly warmer (several nights of ~20F) winters without protection (I think it was JoeReal who related this information). With this in mind, I feel like I might get by with some less "extreme" protection than the "straw silo" or the digging.

With this in mind, has anyone just tried frost blankets (spun polyester) with some Xmas lights for the colder nights? Is it important to keep the plants dry during the winter (I don't think these frost blankets are totally waterproof). It would be much easier for me to use these blankets and lights than the other measures, and I was wondering if anyone else had tried something similar.



Mike Lee 09-28-2007 03:27 PM

Re: "Marginal" Protection
Last winter in Northern California was one of the coldest in 17 years. I'm normally a zone 9 with lows in mid 20's. But we had 2 nights back to back with lows of 17 and 18 F.

All my bananas (4-7 ft tall) were wrapped with 3 layers of Agribon 50. Dwarf Orinoco, Raja Puri, Ice Cream, D. Namwah, Goldfinger, Sweetheart, Manzano, Misi Luki. They all died to the ground. The Goldfinger and Sweetheart never came back.

I'm sure some warm lighting under the frost blankets would have been helpful, but that I didn't do. I'm trying again with the same approach, hoping that it won't be another extremely cold winter.

microfarmer 09-28-2007 10:07 PM

Re: "Marginal" Protection
I use the Christmas lights with cotton sheets over my citrus with excellent success. The frost coats the sheet and makes a frozen shield over the tree crown. Last winter I had no leaf or fruit loss on my still somewhat immature Grapefruits and Mandarin/Navel oranges and tangelo and tangerine trees, but total leaf and fruit loss on my unprotected, much larger and older lemons, and my baby lime totally bit it.

I didn't have any bananas in the ground, so nothing to compare. I will use this method for the bananas. I'm thinking the tree trunk wrap type lights would add a boundry layer heat directly to the P-stem. My only concern is possible burning spots into and the subsequent rotting of the outer leaf sheaths causing total P-stem rot.

A wrap that drys quickly under the lights is a good idea. I might have to look into this Agribon 50/polypropalene stuff. Could I just get regular polypropalene cloth at a fabric store? Anything made 'especially' for gardening (or any other 'special' purpose) usually ends up costing a 'special' price, too.

I am also going to place some river rocks (I just happen to have laying around my yard) around the base of each mat for thermal mass and a black plastic covering over the ground to reduce the soil moisture from all the rain and raise the soil temperature due to thermal absorbtion. Even in winter, you can raise the air temp a few degrees on a still, clear night.

I used to water the citrus if it was going to be really cold, but found it just wasted a lot of water, and I cannot use that method on the bananas.

Bch Grl 09-28-2007 10:38 PM

Re: "Marginal" Protection
I used the Christmas lights and blanket over the top this past winter with good success, but it didn't get in to the teens.

I didn't have any trouble with the lights burning the p-stem and they were on day and night for several days(Lazy). I wasn't too scientific, left some around bases and wrappped some up the stems. Just trying to get warmth in there to save the plant.


microfarmer 09-28-2007 10:51 PM

Re: "Marginal" Protection
Did you use the large or mini bulb lights? I used the large bulbs on my citrus and feel they give off more heat than the minis.

Bch Grl 09-28-2007 10:57 PM

Re: "Marginal" Protection
I used mini lights..but not the LED ones. There is lots of heat in those little bulbs.


microfarmer 09-28-2007 11:22 PM

Re: "Marginal" Protection
I didn't have the same protection on the citrus with the minis, but the tree crown is more open than a P-stem. That's why I was leaning toward the 'wrap' type of lights. If the minis aren't burning the stem, then an overwrap of polypropylene might work to insulate the bulbs heat from being blown away with the slightest breeze and work better than an underwrap.

Thanks for the ideas!

P.s. The led's are very cool (in temperature) and would not offer much if any protection.

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