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Orchard Frost Protection

Dan Hutton


Dan Hutton

Manages a Cattle Ranch on the Sierra Nevada foothills of California for almost 25 years. 



  • January 13, 2021
    10:45 AM
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30 years ago I got a job as a caretaker on a hog cattle slash pleasure ranch in this year in Nevada foothills of California it's a very beautiful area in California and in. This particular ranch was not a typical dude ranch but it was a family affair it was a wealthy family and the parents who were in there they were both 65 when I arrived and they had 4 adult children and in the thing I had 5 grandchildren at that time they eventually had 9 grandchildren and one of my 1st assignments was to grow a family orchard and it was to grow 25 to 30 fruit trees and and they everybody in the family picked what they wanted and so this was not was my assignment and I was thrilled about it because I had had some experience with it but I had never been were it caught cold and in a dozen. I'm going to put out a disclaimer 1st off this class this presentation is not for growing citrus in Nebraska or growing figs in Canada this is to deal with frost in the spring time primarily in a few other things and so the principles are going to be mostly the same wherever you live but you're going to have to match it to your climate. Anyway when when I got to the ranch I had 490 acres you know pretend that you have 490 acres. And they look like this you know this is just unfortunate the picture comes on fuzzy in the translation but it's hills it's up and down and of where if you had this choice where would you put your orchard if it looked like that nothing flat in our country flat look like this. Here all what I didn't do for audio verse the picture is foothills and it's up and down quite steep with some trees and grass and anyway this 2nd picture shows an area to the right that is a little bit higher and it is what oh I was going to have West End show me how to use his mouse but. There's a lesson here is gone oh he's gone Ok well. In this picture without having a mouse to. Wealth. Ok in there's a drawing area right through here and that's one draw and then there's a canyon right in here and then in the back of the bottom of the canyon is a bigger canyon creek do you have a pump you have a pointer that has a doctor or something and they're all. Oh no that's not true and that's hardly any better on my finger. Not a problem just Anyway there's the 3rd one major Canyon in there is 2 as my friend from Kentucky called them draws for drainage use or of place and more things go down now of one of the. Principles in the past and dealt with years heat rises and cold comes down and here I'm in and so in our country where in the hills home fire goes up fire wants to go up and it will raise up it will go down but it will creep down but it will raise up the hills and so that's and then the cold is the reverse it wants to go down and it's like rain in that you know calm down and then fall and find the find the lowest spot and keep current in the will find a channel in a will follow the channel to the lowest spot and if there are if there is no how can that then it will build up at that spot but oh I'm so going to next slide Can we get this little square I'm afraid this is not my set up so let's hear what we can do. This shows what is considered the could be called Frost drainage. And on the right you can see the well will start on the left this picture is designed for 2 thirds other illustrations that I work with that are similar anyway from the top to the bottom they had it at 1500 feet of change in elevation and so at the bottom where it shows it looks like a pool that's cold air that has since been hob gone to the bottom and if they have it at 25 degrees and as an illustration and then as as you work up the sides of the hill the temperature gets warmer and so if you're somewhere between 50 and 100 feet above the bottom you're in what they call a thermal belt and that will last for several 100 feet. For 500 feet and then the temperature starts decrease seen as you go higher we're where we were at the ranch we were. We were at the bottom of the canyon and we would be 10 degrees cooler then the nearest little town but in people is a warrior is cold is this resort town that's 2500 feet higher up and the answer was yes we were just as cold as they were but we didn't get the snow because our elevation was low or they got the snow and. But we were we were cold. Anyway it just shows that they have. In this case it won't be trees or pines or whatever in the thermal belt and on the left and on the right it shows where the frost comes down and the trees are there but there is a big tree in the before it gets to the bottom and that acts as a dam and that holds the air back and that air behind it is colder and so you've you've created your own you haven't created there isn't a problem has been created because of the the. The dam that preventing it from Excuse the cold air from continuing down there comes down cold and it passes by in does little damage except when it gets to the bottom in sits there and that's where it causes the damage. Of this picture to last a lot in translation but this is my story and I went down. Memory Lane and so 30 years ago I had a red beard. And I had a pretty decent garden too. I'm not in the process. The neighbors had a vineyard and I spent a bunch of time with them and they taught me a bunch of things in one of their big things with with frost protection was they had a what others had alarm system they had sensors out in the vineyard and it was hard wired into their house and they had alarm system and when it got down to 34 degrees not 32 degrees but 34 degrees it would set off an alarm and they would jump out of bed and stagger out and go turn on their pumps and get the water going in Indy and so. Today it's you can do things wireless and so it's easier not to have to do hard wire everything it's still not cheap but it still costs money you have to justify it in the case of commercial people they have to get a crop so they spend the money that's needed in case of 2 or 3 trees in your backyard. You have to justify the expense because it's $150.00 to $500.00 depending on what you want and it's a weather station with an alarm system involved and the modern ones go to your telephone. So. That that's that's one important thing if you're in a situation where you can't avoid. It if you're going to be in a frost I'm going to yeah oh boy this picture didn't come out good. And these are the a few examples of of irrigation systems per to protect for frost the top left is what is called the flipper and it's what I used on my grapes and it's a little narrow micro sprinkler and it goes to this and it makes a very narrow band of of moisture water over and it's like 2 feet wide 3 feet wide and it goes right over your role of the vines and so it works great for grapes it does not work for for most other things probably it's great from grapes of. Picture on the bottom shows the sprinklers underneath the trees and it. Frost cold goes down and it goes along the ground and then when it hits something it builds up and and so it's going to freeze the ground if you can keep the ground from freezing and in this case with water then you don't have to have water heating up in the canopy just keep to keep it off with keep the prof off the ground and everything else is going to stay will you be warmer. And so your that's your purpose of the picture on the right is just another my crew sprinkler that you can use there's all sorts of sprinklers The principle is get water out there and look in your garage or your bar or your one or over and. See what works I mean it this is not an advertisement for any particular brand but these are possibilities. This picture is shows what this is not help spring frost this is a coral do enter Frost freeze with citrus and they put the sprinklers on the trees and they wanted to prevent the tree from getting in it when when the ice gets there it stays at 32 degrees and so you've created an insulation on the tree to prevent it from getting colder and doing lots of damage but in this particular case with the long icicles hanging on there you have to keep the water running and tell it melts it off in the day after the sun comes out or those icicles are going to break your tree and you will end up with more damage than if you hadn't put the water on there in the 1st place this is this is citrus and either California or Florida or Texas. Another thing that is used in frost protection could commercial frost protection that can be and should be incorporated into home orchards is some sort of wind if you can move the air still there is what freezes moving air doesn't freeze nearly as quickly and so if you can move the air the commercial people use wind machines. And a wind machine is a propeller on a big engine on a pedestal of 10 or 15 feet in the air and it blows the air and it sounds like a engine airplane taking off and if you have neighbors close by and you turn that thing on to 2 o'clock in the next morning your neighbors are going to call the cops so this this is a fan this this will move a lot of air this cost a little bit of money but your typical box fan that you have in your house probably won't move enough air of the least my box fan knob would do the trick so this is this will move a lot of here and you could use this instead of water or you can use this in conjunction with water. Whichever whatever works but having a fan is a is a is another alternative Now I asked the question earlier if you had 490 acres and you could put plant your fruit trees anywhere in that 490 acres where would you plant it and that was a very vital important question but when it came to me I had no choice. I had to plant it where there was a place so I could hear you get it because in California there is no water no rain in the summer it had to be a place to protect it from the animals because it was accounting ranch and so and then it had to be convenient and so those places put it next to my house in my house was next to the creek and for them and in addition is that I didn't know any better so. I put it next to the creek which was the worst place I could have put it as far as cross Frost was concerned because I was here in that cold part in that part of the bottom where it gets cold. And but this is where the trees that we planted 30 years ago and and this is these are the grapes these were a little higher we put the flipper sprinklers on and they did well. For. California town address. After many years of not being able to grow peaches and put them next to the house on the south side of the house but what was important was that. The air current came down and hit the north side of the house and so you don't want to put your trees on the side where the the current comes down you want to be on the mower side and so we put the trees next to the house next to the carport and there was a wealth. More pictures this is one this is another this is the same tree the next year and of so it's right next to the house and what that does. And I pictured not know it but the current will come down and it will come to the top of the house and it will be the goal or the top or it will go around a size but it doesn't hug the wall and so the poor the current and what you are doing is you are this is a this is a concept that I learned the hard really easy way I'm not sure how to do it how to say it but frost is made up of 2 parts and most people don't know that what to do sits on the leaves in the freeze and and then explodes the cell and damages it or kills it and if you can prevent the dew from sitting on the leaves then the temperature can be much lower and in not damage the tree. In the carport right here I have the carport just a few feet from not. I knew was cold and my new my car had a thermometer in it so I went out and I checked the thermometer and the peach trees were in full bloom in the temperature was 24 degrees well and there was no damage because they had been protected the. House protected. The tree from having the deuce sit on it and so that was that was up and I was able to get peaches and peaches and nectarines consistently and I had have to thin heavily because there was no damage from the cold after I started planting next to the house all this this picture. Now. One of the things for frost protection though there was a question earlier about mulching emulsion is very important and you have to weigh the the mulching but for best frost protection it's best to have underneath the trees clear you want to have nothing on the soil and because a more secure comes up from the soil in that heat around the tree if if you have. Her You have mulch or you have something on the soil then to more secure is trapped under that and it's not able to come up and in and if your soil has dry it's not able to release it so if you if you have a dry eye if you have dry weather and a frost is predicted then it's best to put water on it in a hard particular case and probably for most of you. Are Frost come immediately after a storm so we have rain and then we have a cold front come in immediately after the storm in a treasonous and so we didn't have a problem with having dry soil but it's possible that that if you did or if you didn't anyway oh there's this in part of the picture if he were to go what this picture shows as West and continues to fiddle with it is. We we were at the ranch for 25 years but over the course of time. We were always looking for a place of our own and we did know what we were looking for 1st and we but after dealing with the frost for many years we said we wanted a place where we could grow fruit trees and we wanted a place where we could grow a garden and we wanted to place where there was good frost drainage and so we found this place that had it was steep on one side and then it came down and leveled out until we the 1st thing we did was we took 3 recording thermometers they recorded for one week and we could at time they had the high and the low and we recorded to see if there was a difference between the top in the bottom of the of the property to see if. It was working to see if the frost drainage was working or not and what we found was that. As you can see in this illustration there is a thermometer at the top there's one part way down and then there's another one at the bottom on the left and how there was 3 to 7 degrees difference between the one on the bottom on the left and the one on the top and so there was definitely Frost drainage it was colder at the bottom than the top there were 35 feet change in elevation. Weston mentioned that he had I think he feet of change how invention or something he was pretty pretty significant and if you have that that's super but you've got to live with what you've got and this we had 35 feet and we thought that that was pretty good. If we can keep going on and hope with the focus of this this is just another picture of the just another picture. This shows for our audio version this shows some grapevines and. It shows buckets under the credit lines and the buckets have water in them and this is in it is to gain one or 2 degrees of frost protection by putting water under the plants that has it has it won't do a lot of frost protection but if you only needed one or 2 degrees and you got down 220-2031 or 32 and that kept you from losing your fruit in then this is better than nothing this is a picture Weston went over the zones and this is another picture of the zones and when you're planting trees he Western mansion it is very important to be able to have your tree survive and that of course is very important. When you have when you're in an area like we we are that has is prone to being colder than anywhere else in that particular zone or to have more of a process problem the not particular zone you need to instead of looking for that zone you need to say it when you're looking at the little blurbs that are in the catalog it's the need to say does well where there's a frost problem or does well in severe Winter Springs or does well where it's difficult to grow in the springtime and because if you if you're in the normal area you don't need that but if you're in an area that's subject to late frost you definitely need it oh. And in this case you could hit u.s.d.a. if you look it up u.s.d.a. zones and then you put in your zip code it will tell you what zone you're in in her you need to know when your last frost is going to come and usually if you talk to your neighbors and stuff they'll throw you when to plant tomatoes because you don't plant is that you don't plant tomatoes in Tel Vos frost outside unless you're protecting them some way if you're protected in a minute this doesn't matter but so in our area they Mark Twain made our county famous he he wrote a little story is called the Jumping Frog jubilee of Calaveras County and we're in Calaveras County and. So our county fair is called the Jumping Frog jubilee of Calaveras County and they jump pros and they get behind him and they scare him to death and they make him try to jump and. That happens the 3rd weekend in May and. Most of you who think it was California has more and you don't you don't get frost or anything like not well in our particular county we would go warm cold warm cold warm cold over and over and how after each warm you had to be prepared for that cold that would damage your Pruett and he said Don't plant your tomatoes and tell thrown Joe to meters you know how to say it correctly. And so the 3rd week in May was our time to plan to maters in the next county south they had a different saying which was don't plant your tomatoes and kill Mother's Day and with well that's not the same but if you look at the calendar Mother's Day is the 2nd Sunday in May in frogs jump is that same week so if they're they're talking about the same thing it's a few days difference but it's the same time in so you need to know in your area when you can plant things I have a friend who lives in Dallas and he said he's never seen a frost after April 15th well and in that work touch but it's colder in Dallas by at least a zone I think there are 8 and were 9 a and so there theoretically colder but they're Frost top long before ours do. When you're in a big area and you want to grow something that can grow in the next zone warmer you can sometimes find ways to do that in in where we are in the foothills we can. In the Central Valley of California they grow a bunch of citrus in the south they grown in big fortunes in the north they grow him in people who are just. But they grow them and I love citrus and I wished I could have grown ceteris a lot if when our particular area if you have 0 excellent Frost rainy snow you you're on a ridge in the frost can go down both sides then that's a good place and they always put them next to a house so next to house and with an excellent prostrates and you can grow citrus in so when we moved to this. Property we put in these water tanks up at the very tired point on the property and then we put the parliamentary and were able to protect it because the water tanks are heat sinks and they collect heat in in the water and then it has the past proffering. And if you can also use Christmas lights in one small trees to to do some frost protection. And then you if you put a bag over the tree and have Christmas lights in it you can have even more protection but the Christmas lights are not l.e.d.s. it has to be in can doesn't put out heat and if it puts out the heat you can and in depending on how cold you are you can put one thing out of one rout of Christmas lights and you can do it 3 or 4 times and you can gain a lot of heat that way and with the end you have it on the bags keep it and then when you are going to cover with bags you don't want on the on the right it shows for the bags tied to the trunk and. And it allows the ground. The more it's true that it's in the ground comes up and goes around the tree and you do it you're not able to utilize the heat from the moisture. The if you can put ground staple on the on the around the tree in hold to the bag down to the ground then the moisture will turn into heat and come up inside of the bag and had to your the ability to keep it warm Ok. So in review so choose where your plant what wisely based on your zone what the warm air rises in the cold air sinks so plant in the thermal known if you if you can plant sensitive plants next to buildings Wolford water tanks were they can be protected from the cold temperature and excessive moisture due from descending on the plant and freezing the storms often follow a cold front are often followed by a cold front and clear skies were taught can result in frost so be aware that if it's going to freeze. If it's going to have clear skies after of a storm be prepared to do frost protection if necessary use the temperature alert for a moment or to wake you up the alarm systems and if you don't like to be woken up you can use a timer which if you do turns on. It would have whatever time you start to send it out but you can have the water or a fan or something come on at 2 o'clock in the morning or 3 o'clock in the morning and it comes on every day in so you're going to water that are if it's if it's a wonder system you're turning on it's going to come on every day if you need it or not but you don't have to wake up and go do it and usually I found that the day was the coldest was the day I slept the best so. I was not the one that was good going with me on the lam system would have yeah and by removing my not having stuff under the plant you're allowing the marsh here to keep help keep your temperatures up having bare earth helps keep the temperatures up and keeping the soil moist also helps keep the chemical and you can also use buckets of water under the trees which will also release some water and some heat not a lot but a little bit and you can use lights in covers to protect to remove and where you can remove move the plants inside you know area they do a lot with citrus they'll take him inside the house and a potted plant or something and then they'll put it back out and when it's warmer and use there any questions you have I'm hard of hearing. Ok. Not to have to. Ok. It's possible that the bag didn't that picture was a lot of focus and because of all the work oh but. This there stapled her with rocks or something to the ground the artist turns able to come up to the inside of that. You know it's wrapped tight around the the base the trunk of the tree and the moisture goes out and instead of going in he goes out I don't know if that helps you understand I know you wanted to go in you wanted to stay one side Ok. Perhaps. I could. Ok to repeat the question what has happened if you can survive this harmony with the tree but I read a book in their answers yes. I have. The writer who wants to come I don't know about that you have to respond to the question. When you have a bucket under the tree. Or not and should be round her cold water it doesn't. Help but I think it's going to call. Canada crossed her arms if you're expecting. It hasn't. Passed and it should have been fast park and I ran it and I turned the damn time that fast that's what I am familiar with. And that's probably if you're not hasn't plastic but it's found to leave it around during the day. If I have a question. Why bad happen to have him over that class or to get too hot and. The 1st question has to move around for a couple days and if you live around for a couple times smiling at you if you're gonna have an arm for the rest of us. Then you don't want to do that. When you know how to throw the term that is a very important question that I've missed in the typewriter part there are certain fruits that are of much more clarity that can be Grandma and will get colder and there are certain fruits that are much less hardy and you need to watch out for. The. Question What did you like the best I liked everything that made it to maturity. But we've had some amazing pears we've had some amazing peaches. They happened as usually well they were pretty good too. We. See. This a diner and have time to explain that but since half is a wonderful thing if you can the plan since have to play for go way up. And back to him back to my map there are several classes that are strictly on C's health plan not but that's a really important his sister have think makes things taste better. The question is can you apply serious Had to the lives or the soil you can have power to you but I preferred to apply it as a friendlier and there was a question here time what. Now can help I'm not I'm going to question her and do not have any recommendations for. The past to have a weather station that has an alert system to tell you Tony found one when it's kind of friends or not and then there's a number of things you can look up online and to purchase. They will have their own description I don't have all the others and I don't have the hurts us the. The question has what if you were to put my plastic around the best of the tree without absorbing it would that be beneficial her detrimental and turns it would absorb part of one time have the monster that's trapped. To be released up so. From my understanding it's more important to have the branch to release cup. You're not you're getting with up here you're not dealing with when I say happier I am the 1st doesn't know what you can't see my hand I raise my hand up. But to the top so we have the truth the truth has happened as high as you can reach where the if you are the monster of the pack past it is going to lower my 3rd her death not more of the flowers are below me I have there's a question in the back. Yes. Round that question was addressed the question was what kind of writer do you run a party in the bucket and after is it doesn't matter because by morning it's going to call so it just the fact that it's matter is going to keep the temperature warm going to class tomorrow if you have if you know how to throw and you have a thermal belt during the summer belt that's for best results you can properly ramp but you're going to have. Temperatures And last night you want to Prast if you're within the thermal belt. Well. The question was to my recommend. Planting in contour lines I'm going to go back to Weston's example and I have not experienced that I don't know the answer. Question. The question was Should you plant on the north side of a slope or on the south side of the slope and this brings up another point that I missed in my presentation that of the north in the south if you plant on the north side where it's colder it's going to pad out later and you have all the little advantage you might have a week or 2 in advantage but it doesn't stop all frost it it's not a bad thing to do oh. Yes just because there's a whole bunch of parts so you need to know the counter and that is that would be something that could work in my particular case I'm on the south side and. It works quite well. And you also have to remember one of my house where where can I do it you can only plant what you have you can't plant what's not available Ok I guess we're done it was. Great Ok yes we're done oh how wonderful rest of your day and I just had one comment and all all I wanted to say is that I know that some crops in general like I think you talked about how some. Varieties will bloom later than others right. And maybe maybe mention this I don't know that some whole crops will bloom later than others like apples in general. Are delayed in our area by like I say 2 weeks maybe 3 weeks from beaches just as a whole crop I don't know maybe very much in that. Peach told me correct there's there's thank you there are certain things that will grow in certain areas better than others and there are certain things that the modern or and the minor. The thing that I was surprised about was that pears Bloom early and plums Bloom early and yet they take the frost better than the others and so. You have to know what works and you know how pools bloom later peaches are apparently early and they're one of the sensitive ones are very sensitive. In our area homines are very sensitive grow them in the bottom but they don't grow those up or we are much. And there I don't think we grow much anywhere all small country. And you would know one of the points that I did not mention for grapes in the when you're growing grapes in hard part of the country. And not familiar with how you prune Muscat I know but. The grapes put out of pods and they want to go to the end of the cane and so if you wait as long as you can and then you prune it you're going to hear yourself 2 more weeks going to start out at the bottom and you come back here nearly even oh a foot long in there's 10 or 15 bugs on not that cane or that spark then you're going to have gained yourself 2 weeks before the frost. And so hot in my area I prune the grapes the last week of March the 1st week of April when the sap is running so you're going to have puddles whenever you make the cut. Have a wonderful time. 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