Sunday, 31 March 2013

late March 2013 - and the first signs of spring in Iceland

It´s late March. Spring finally arrives. Days are sunny and mild, above freezing, but nights still always have some frost. Days are decently long now. The soil is thawing, and inside the coldframe the peas and fava beans are now thriving. I also transplanted some spring onions, leeks and kale under a fleece. They do not seem to mind a minor frost. And I have seedlings of maca, good king henry, crambe and indian ricegrass growing outdoors - very tiny ones, but alive nonetheless.

The pea and fava bean experiment
The pea and fava beans experiment was a success! They survived 3 weeks of frosty weather.

This period was 2 days of a freeze (down to -9ºC), followed by 2 days of thaw (up to +5ºC), 6 days of a deep freeze (down to -13ºC) and 15 days with deep morning frost (-4ºC) followed by mild thawing afternoons (+8C).

Only around 40% of the peas, and 75% of the fava beans survived the first long deep freeze.
After that I planted many more seedlings and  90% of the peas and fava beans survived the remaining two weeks of frosty morning but mild afternoons. What makes a difference is transplanting the seedlings when they are small (not more than 3cm) so that they do not break under a deep frost.

Beneath the cold frame, spring onions also survive a deep freeze, if having mulch protection. Otherwise only larger plants will survive undamaged. The same for the brassicas. Small seedlings survive significant frosts but not constant freezes, lower than -6ºC. Only larger plants can survive these, but not if these deep freezes are repeated and alternating with thaws.

The cold frame
Inside the cold frame, the soil does not freeze if there is a minor frost. It starts to freeze partially if there is a night temperature of -6ºC (temperature inside will be -2ºC). During a deep freeze (even down to -15ºC), the temperature will remain constant at -3ºC, provided the soil is also covered by a sandwich of plastic and peatmoss.

At day, the temperature can easily climb to +15ºC even during a day around freezing (with the sun shining and warming the inside of it). With an afternoon temperature of +10ºC, the air inside the cold frame can warm up to +30ºC!

Indoors: flowering beans
Indoors, I am very happy to see the first flowers in the peas and lima beans. Meanwhile some pulses have shown signs of some disease (possibly the bean mosaic virus which is carried by aphids). This seems to affect the already vigorous growing of the winged beans. The groundnut struggles to sprout but two have done it. The siberian pea is greening a little bit and the mulberry put on some growth show. Still dormant are the moringa, princess tree and honey locust, which worries me. Perhaps I should not have submit the last two to some cold during the early stages of this winter (I did it so as to induce dormancy and apparently it was a mistake).

Self-sufficiency plan continues...
I planted, in small pots, around 25 seedlings of sunflowers and sweet corn, and a few of squash, and varieties of cold tolerant melon and watermelon. I expect to transplant them outdoors, when the frost is over. My plan towards 100% 1 month food self-sufficiency still goes with much motivation, although sometimes the task seems overwhelming (especially when it comes to start everything indoors first).

So far the plan is to plant 10m2 of grain, 3m2 of potatoes, 3m2 of pulses, and 3m2 of other vegetables, with small plots for sunflowers, squash, quinoa and corn.

I am trying to plant as much rye outdoors as possible, however I discovered the store bought seed is not really that viable (the one used for breakfast grain), so I must order new one. I also have been fertilizing plants indoors with a liquid feed based in compost and seaweed, and outdoors I amended the soil with limestone, a natural rock rich in calcium and magnesium (to correct the excessive acid pH).

Stay tuned for more updates!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

How to plant out seedlings in deep freezes of the winter

 The excellent ways that Permaculture can help us increase soil temperature!

In cold winter days of -13ºC, the soil remains unfrozen and seedlings of peas and broad beans are growing alive and well, under a thick cover of black plastic, peatmoss and inverted plastic cups.

It is a very cold morning. Soil is frozen solid but not underneath a thick plastic cover, near a  sheltered corner.

The cover has a triple layer: black plastic + peatmoss + black plastic
Under the both layers of plastic, there is a thick layer of peatmoss
Under the thick cover, there are seedlings covered by recycled plastic cups
The seedlings are alive and well, almost unfrozen. They are sheltered by a little bit of peatmoss.
Here is a close up of a pea seedling. Very much alive and well.
The soil is not frozen.
Even seedlings of broad beans are growing well under the moss mulching.
Further out in the garden, there is a cold frame, to protect from the winter winds.

The outdoors temperature is -13ºC (around 8 ºF). It was colder during the night.

Inside the cold frame, there is a layer of peatmoss over the black plastic that covers the soil.

Under that layer, the seedlings are also protected by inverted plastic cups.
The temperature near the seedlings is just slightly below freezing point (around -3ºC or 28 ºF), much milder than the outdoor temperature.

The soil is unfrozen and seedlings are very healthy and protected, under the cover.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

mid March 2013 - planted peas and fava beans outdoors, in freezing weather

10th March.  I transplanted for the first time this year, some seedlings to outdoors! It was a sunny but freezing day, with a low of -6ºC, and a high of +3ºC.

However since I got a plastic cold frame, even with these night temperatures, the soil does not freeze completely. And it does not freeze at all, if further protected by a black plastic sheet and peatmoss.

Therefore I planted a few snap peas and a few broad beans (fava beans). Just a few.

They will have a week ahead with very low temperatures, almost a week of a constant deep freeze. Will they survive, under this protection?

Stay tuned for updates!