Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. $12 for 12 weeks.

Chilling tale of the good work done by Jack Frost

. The Vikings depicted Jack Frost, named "Jokul Frosti," as an elf-like deity who traveled from place to place painting frost onto fields while people slept. Fruit-bearing plants that are commercially grown in our area require hundreds of "chill hours" to break their winter dormancy and to begin their fruit-making cycles.

Jack Frost paid me a visit while I slept, and like a thief in the night, he stole what was left of my warm-season vegetables and frost-tender flowers. I knew he was on his way, though, since the temperature had fallen to less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit by 10 p.m. on a clear and windless night. Plus, weather forecasters were also predicting his arrival.

By the way, I've never met Jack Frost in person. But I understand he's from Norway, and was a prominent figure in Viking mythology. Named "Jokul Frosti," the Vikings depicted him as an elf-like deity who traveled from place to place painting frost onto fields while people slept.

I'm not too down on Jack Frost, though, because he also does some good. For instance, fruit-bearing plants that are commercially grown in our area — such as apples, blueberries, cherries and peaches — require hundreds of "chill hours" to break their winter dormancy and to begin their fruit-making cycles.

Chill hours, incidentally, are calculated by adding together the number of hours between 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, minus the number of hours below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, during a

plant's dormancy period. Thanks to Jack Frost, our growing area typically receives close to 1,000 chill hours annually, an amount that's more than sufficient for these plants to bear fruit.

Another gift from Jack Frost is that he imparts a natural pesticide. If it weren't for Jack Frost, in other words, we'd be overrun with insects and diseases that didn't perish because freezing weather never arrived.

When it comes to Jack Frost, then, I suppose I'm a little conflicted. After all, I miss summer already. But the home-grown apples I'm presently enjoying are a product of his work, too.

This week in the garden

I've discovered a quick and muscle-saving way to clean our perennial beds:

First, I cut the taller, woody perennials — such as hibiscus and hollyhocks — to within a few inches of the ground. Next, I mow the beds with a mulching-lawn-mower with its deck raised to 6 inches and its rear bagger attached. The shredded debris captured within the mower's bag gets dumped into the compost pile.

When I'm through, all that remains within the beds are the stubs of perennials and the pine-bark nuggets I use as mulch.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading