March 19, 2014
From the Garden: Frost cracks and hot beds
Despite all of our attentions, the Bay tree has suffered a fatal frost crack on its upper trunk. The trunk was wrapped as a precaution against just this injury earlier in the year but it has proven insufficient.
What is most puzzling is that the crack appears on the north side of the trunk. In the past the split has always occurred on the southern side as a frost crack is the result of the trunk warming up over the course of a sunny day and then the outer wood suddenly cooling at a faster rate than the inner wood in the evening (or such is the wisdom of our natural philosophers) causing the crack to suddenly (and often explosively) form. One would imagine that the north side of the trunk, out of view of the sun and wrapped with canvas, would have the least amount of temperature differential between the outer and inner wood but such is the mystery of the natural world.
The dung reached 125 degrees on the surface of the hotbed on Sunday so it was given a last stirring and tamping and the soil laid on. This hotbed is intended for the warm season crops of pepper, tomato, melon and cucumber and to ease their transplantation they are started in containers.
The cucumber and melon seed are sown into loosely woven baskets so that the plant may be moved with the minimum disturbance to its roots. It is peculiar to almost all vining plants that they resent transplantation so the utmost care must be taken. The tomato and pepper seeds are sown in earthen pots as is common amongst the nurserymen.
The soil, which is the fully composted dung from last years hotbed, will be allowed to warm for several days before the seeds are planted. In addition to those plants intended for transplanting, we will sow two varieties of cantaloupe at the ends of the bed which are meant to stay.
These will be the first to fruit, followed by the melons transplanted to the garden from the frame which will fruit before the melons sown directly in the open ground. With a little diligence and a gentle season we should have melons throughout the summer months.