Imagine starting your first crop and having your first plants delivered while the worst cold in years is taking place. That's what happened to Chris Mastronardi in Ontario. He and other growers update us today on how they keep on growing with the cold going on.
At Allegro Acres the young plants are safe inside the greenhouse -the temperature being -22C last night did not bother them.
Glass versus poly
The end is in sight for southern Ontario's bout with extreme cold this week, as temperatures are to improve starting today. However, circumstances were quite extreme: Yesterday a total of 1292 joules of sunlight was combined with a minimum temperature of -22 degrees in Ontario. But could growers profit of the sun? Whereas glass greenhouses mostly saw no problems realising the setpoints even during the night, in poly greenhouses temperatures lowered to just a couple of degrees above ten.
Heating up the pipe temperature might often not be of use, since the plants are to suffer from the heat and the dry, active climate. A slightly lower temperature will do less damage to the crop.
Growers in glass greenhouses keep one curtain closed during the day - since the glass often is frozen, it's too cold to open and far from energy efficient to open the energy curtain. However, since the temperatures rise significantly during the day, the mid temperature is made and the long-term effects on the crop seem to be kept under control.
If somebody misses the snow, the team with Dramm sure knows how to get some more. "Not only the best spray equipment for your greenhouse, also great for making snow", they write with this video of their hydrasprayer. "Not that we really need any more snow here..."
To Chris Mastronardi, the cold was pretty frightening. Last year Leamington Produce bought the 7 acre greenhouse from Reid Greenhouses and his first crop was underway this week.
"It was very cold Tuesday and Wednesday with the delivering, but all plants arrived in good shape", he states. The plants, ungrafted Touche beef tomatoes, were propagated by Roelands Plant and Arie Alblas takes the opportunity to congratulate him on the new venture.
"Some delays occurred Tuesday and Wednesday with the delivering - since there was a snow storm. One truck even broke down due to the cold temperature - a frozen airline occurred. But now the plants are growing, the customer is happy and the crop looks great."
What polar vortex? We're 70 and sunny in the greenhouse growing strong, delicious tomatoes! ☀️ pic.twitter.com/VYVe5ZVvbI— MightyVine (@MightyVine) January 30, 2019
At Gotham Greens the team ran outside to do this little experiment - and afterwards they ran quickly back into the warm greenhouse. Check out the video on their Instagram.
Young plant company
"The upper Midwest has been at about -35 C the last few days and that is where the biggest problem is. We are -20 C at 7:00 yesterday morning", says Doug Cole of D.S. Cole growers, an ornamental grower of young and finished plants in Loudon (NH).
At D.S. Cole, they are set up for the current cold. "We have plenty of boiler capacity and 2 layers of screens in our roof. We also cover our gable vents in the winter with a double layer of poly that has air in between. Some days it is tough for our staff to all get to work due to snow and low temperatures."
Where the cold really affects the company is that they are a young plant company and that they need to ship throughout the country. "Each week during the winter we evaluate the temperatures throughout the country and make our best estimate as to where we are able to ship safely and what method to use that will be safe."
And finding the best and safest way to ship the cuttings is important during this time of the year, when growers are preparing for spring. At Mill Creek Gardens in Marshfield (WI) for example, they're supposed to be planting the cuttings now, but those are stuck on the road. "Those are on a truck that broke down near Madison", owner Danielle Winer told WSAW NewsChannel 7.
Also at the greenhouse, they are struggling to keep their plants warm and alive during the extreme weather.
"It's the hard work loading the wood stoves every three hours through the night so this greenhouse does not drop below 72 degrees Farenheit."
Mill Creek Gardens has been gearing up for this cold for the past two weeks by making sure their heating systems work. But they told WSAW that they never know what could happen when it gets this cold. "It's scary when it gets this cold and it is not just for greenhouse growers, it's for farmers, it's for people that have no choice but to go to work and we're just praying everyone is safe and snuggled in."