Wet and wild

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

How did everyone do with that weird freeze last week? I noticed something a little odd, but I don’t know for sure whether it’s something to implement for late-in-the-season freezes. It’s something to keep in mind, anyway.

My vegetable garden sits on one edge of my yard. Wednesday is one of my watering days, so right in the middle of the freeze, my sprinklers went off. If you’ll picture a square with the sprinkler in one corner and a fan shape emanating from it, you’re picturing the frost-damage to my vegetables. The closer to the sprinkler head, the less damage. The only plant that actually died was a cucumber on the opposite corner of the box (and it was sick to begin with). The next plants closer to the sprinkler were eggplants, they took the most survivable damage. But the peppers and tomatoes that got the most water were barely damaged at all.

All right, so here’s my theory. Water, when fluid, is above freezing temperature. That means, by necessity, it’s warmer than the air when the air temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That suggests two possibilities to me. First, water takes longer to reach freezing than air; maybe by slowing down the freezing process, less damage is done to the cell walls. Second, maybe ice, as opposed to frost, has some insulating properties.

So anyway, in a bass-ackwards kind of Friday logic, I turned to the internet. There are lots of different theories as to why irrigating works to prevent frost damage, but most appear to deal with the slight raise in temperature or the ability of the plants to uptake moisture as quickly as the cold dry air pulls it out of them.

Good to know. The world is a wondrous place. It doesn’t hurt any to try to figure out how things really work.