Saturday, January 21, 2012

January Cold

Amaryllis blooming in the sunny window of my neighbor, Dr. Darrel Apps. He has a basement grow room where he is probably preparing to up-pot approximately 2,000 daylily seedlings from his hybridizing efforts of the last summer.

My indoor plant captives are telling me the days are getting longer. It hit a very severe minus 21 on the thermometer the other night, though. Yet, about a week ago we had a balmy 55. If nothing, central Wisconsin is a land of extremes, from politics to weather.

Just the other day, Bing brought me a picture of emperor penguins to my homepage. Who doesn't like penguins? Penguins are happiness that waddles. After my happy feet moment, I noticed the backdrop of those penquins included trees of some sort with grey green leaves.

Well, the picture was taken on South George Island, which lies south of the Antartica Circumference. I think that is fancy talk for Antarctic Circle. The picture made me hunt for more information, particularly on their weather. They are currently having high summer there in the South Sandwich Islands where the record balmy summer day is 74 degrees, but tends to hover around 50 and can get down to just above freezing (36 degrees)for their minimums.

What really grabbed my attention was the trivia regarding winter weather to which I am totally relating in these moments. The typical range of winter weather is about 23 degrees to 36 degrees.

Okay, what's with that? When I check winter hardiness of plants for central Wisconsin, they need to withstand temperatures down to NEGATIVE 30, or maybe worse!

According to what I read about this penguin island, there are no residents there. There are a few British researchers and military types (this being part of the area where Argentina and the UK fought it out in the Falkland Islands War in the 1980s), but that's it.

You don't see too many functioning greenhouses here in central Wisconsin in January. Even with a 10-15 degree bump a greenhouse provides, it is just too cold at night and the days are just too short. Almost any growing space needs supplemental light. Dr. Apps has his basement space. I have two light racks in a spare space in my bedroom loft. While Darrel is pricking out daylily seedlings, I will just now start thinking about planting some petunia or lisianthus seedlings and maybe a flat of microgreens or basil.

That last freeze date is still over three months away.

I will stratify some seeds and pour over vegetable seed catalogues, but that is it. A small pot of 50 germinated petunia seedlings becomes two flats (400 square inches) of growing space or seven percent of my total space for indoor growing.

Until May, I'm here in central Wisconsin counting the waxing minutes of sunlight and thinking about penguins.

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