A week later, the freeze damage appears even worse at Bee Heaven Farm. Leaves that were brown last week look almost black and withered. Heirloom pole beans are totally fried. The last of the Gold of Bacau beans sold at market last Sunday. Margie says she’ll replant beans, but it’s going to be a couple months before you see them at market again.
Most of the heirloom tomatoes look pretty rough, too. The leaves of some varieties are completely black and shriveled, and other varieties look just fine. Cold resistance clearly depends on the variety. Most tomato plants dropped green, unripe fruit because of the cold, but enough stayed on the vines for a moderate, hopeful harvest. Irrigation and light fertilizing continues, and it’s wait and see as to how much can be salvaged. “As long as the plant has some green leaves, there’s hope for recovery,” Margie said. She’s also going to replant, but it’ll be a while before there will be more tomatoes at market.
Some avocado trees got their leaf tips burned by the freeze, but otherwise don’t seem the worse for the wear. They started putting out buds last week. Ideally, the buds will turn into blooms, which when pollinated, will turn into fruit. But time will tell. The freeze could still have a hidden impact on the trees that may show up months later. The blossoms may not form properly, or not set fruit, or drop fruit before it matures. Anything can go wrong, all because of so much harsh cold weather.
Over at Worden Farm, they were affected by the freeze but they are bouncing back, Eva Worden told me. It was very cold for quite a while, with 23 degrees at ground level at the coldest. They had freezing cold weather for 10 days to two weeks, and that abnormally long stretch of cold weather was “definitely record breaking,” according to Eva. In very cold weather, seeds don’t germinate, and plants don’t grow. “They just kinda hang out,” as Eva put it, and that delay pushes back the harvest schedule.
Crops were protected with floating row cover. The Wordens and their crew did plant vegetables planning for a freeze to happen (as they get at least one every winter up in Punta Gorda), choosing those that would be minimally affected. Collards, carrots and beets didn’t die from the cold. In fact they will be kissed with sweetness. The cold causes those plants to get a higher sugar concentration. But the warm weather crops — tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil — were destroyed by the extreme cold. The leafy potato tops also died from the cold, and now they are harvesting baby potatoes fast and furious. Worden Farm will have enough for us in Miami in a couple weeks, as things get replanted and start to mature. We might get mostly greens and radishes from them, and maybe those small potatoes.