Icy daggers of death

It was a busy January and I’ve got a few more busy weeks in Februrary. The work schedule has been a bit more hectic than I like, so I haven’t had much time for blogging. So, for today’s post, I thought I’d keep it short and focus on one of the things that makes gardening such a challenge in our location.

Here’s what happens to our saturated clay soil once it freezes after a heavy rain.

What you are seeing is a frozen crust of Douglasfir needles, bark, leaves, and particles of clay (lighter tinted areas of the picture) lifted up about 2 inches above a of wet, mostly unfrozen clay (darker shaded areas below the crust, mainly in the front of the picture). Let’s take a closer look. See all those soil-encrusted ice crystals (vertical columns) pushing up our thin organic layer?

Nice, no? Another closer look that shows the columns of ice crystals better. I broke some of the ice away so I could get my camera in there better. You can see the broken ones lying in the lower part of the picture.

One more closer look.

Now, just imagine what those ice crystals do to the roots of my agaves and cacti on a repeat cycle, six days in a row. I think this is why my A. parryi ‘JC Raulston’ looks so bad, even though it was planted in 2 feet of gravel, and why my Opuntia ‘Golden Lion’  keeled over and rotted (here). Imagine that. Some desert plants don’t like this sort of treatment.

01/30/2023 – 02/05/2023: About 1 week of freezing nights. Rains have returned. Lowest temperature for period = 21°F, highest = 56°F.

Notes: Periodically hear frogs creaking outside at night. A few snowdrops (Galanthus) have started blooming.

Garden chores accomplished: Lots to clean up in preparation for spring, no time to do it. The feeling of overwhelm has begun.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kris P

    Periodically, usually when we’re at our driest or hottest here in SoCal, I float the idea of moving to the PNW in discussions with my husband. But then I read winter posts from the PNW like yours and count myself lucky to live in a generally gentler climate. Best wishes for some warmer weather.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      The good weather is on its way! I think it’s natural to wonder what it would be like somewhere else. After having lived in several other parts of the country, I think every place has its good and bad features – and we more or less get used to dealing with the bad wherever we happen to live. Personally, I’d rather have the cold, ice, and rain than the constant threat of fire and smoke that we now have in late summer. That is the one thing I am having a hard time adapting to in our new climate.

  2. danger garden

    Great photos, I tried to capture the same but wasn’t as successful.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I can’t wait to read more about it. Finally getting some free time back and looking forward to catching up on your winter observations.

  3. Anna K

    I’ve never looked that closely at frozen clay. Fascinating striations…

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I was glad the pictures turned out so well. One of those days I didn’t want to be outside very long.

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