Assessing Fruit Tree Damage After a Freeze

The relatively surprisingly bad Southeast Texas freezes of January 6th and 7th, 2017, left many of us wondering how our semitropical fruit trees have done. There are really three questions:
(1) The first is relatively obvious: were they killed and if not how bad was the damage?
Questions (2) and (3) are potentially more important since they help us learn.
In the 1980’s, Stewart Nagle, Ph.D. did a careful assessment of citrus damage after the very destructive 1983 and 1989 freezes where temperatures in most places were near the all time records. He went all over the southern half of the state looking at what survived and why. He developed many generalizations about what happened including what did well in freezes and what did poorly. And most of his findings and of course those of many others across Texas and the world are what we use today for good guesses.

As I remember it, he said that for most citrus, their survival depended on several factors:
(1) genetics–kumquats, yuzu, trifoliate, mandarins hardy; pummelos, citron, limes less so.
(2) rootstock–trifoliate and tf crosses: hardiest; sour orange, rough lemon: not so.
(3) active growth– quiescent & healthy: hardy; but active growth or diseased: tender
(4) hours below particular temperatures: less than 32˚F,less than 28˚F, less than 25˚F,less than 22˚F, less than 18˚F, less than 14˚F, less than 10˚F
(5) size of wood killed: leaves only, new growth, twigs, branches less than 1 inch; branches more than 1 inch; trunk; whole tree
To this I would add another factor: exposure
(6) orchard trees exposed to winds out of the north, to winds from the east or west, or overhead are not as sheltered as many house yards where buildings and other trees can provide some warmth protection.

In today’s world with an electronic network across Texas and beyond, it is possible to use this information to learn what caused the damage to your trees. It is also possible to share your conclusions, provided you report the information above for your site to develop a profile of how different fruit trees behaved in various locations and temperatures. This would allow us to understand just how well mangoes and lychees did too.

If you want to do this systematically, you should assess at least twice–at 2-6 weeks and again in about 6 months. Plants on their own roots like some lemons may take even longer to show life.
I have included below an Excel File you can use to do an assessment. freeze-report-template

You could also fill it in in handwriting so there is also a PDF you can download and print.
freeze-report-template-sheet1

I have completed my assessment of orchard trees and will post this here so you can see an example when it is available for upload.

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Climate Change, Food and Houston’s Future

In February 2015, I presented an invited lecture on the relation of climate change to food production, and its likely affect on Houston’s future.  This is obviously a dicey topic and not easily presented in in 90 minutes.  It was enough to talk about some important issues and questions.

Climate Change, Food, and Houston’s Future

Community Gardens for Southeast Texas

Last spring, Urban Harvest’s Erin Ericksen and I gave a workshop on the role of community gardens in building a sustainable society here. The Pdf is attached.

Randall & Eriksen Community Gardens

Designing a Non-Profit that Works (Strategic Planning)

Most people wouldn’t dream of building a house or bridge or retirement fund without a design–a carefully constructed written plan using well-thought out principles. But it is shocking that many non-profit organizations (and many for-profits too) do this. As well, when non-profits get around to a strategic plan, they often take their cues from consultants and advice books whose main experience is for-profit efforts. The article attached sets out some of the ideas I developed over many years about planning in non-profit organizations.

20121215 Strategic Planning

Using Permacultural Frames to Design Foodshed Improvement Programs

In March, 2014 I gave a brief talk at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Albuquerque summarizing the anthropological and permacultural thinking I used over 21 years as part of a group effort to build an urban food movement in Houston Texas. The brief talk was part of a panel of anthropologists who contributed to the 2013 book Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia–Bioregionalism, Permaculture, and Ecovillages. The Pdf of the presentation below is a huge simplification of my book article. That in turn is a simplification of my part that was in turn a lot of effort by many people. In June, Urban Harvest’s Erin Eriksen and I presented Building Sustainable Cities through Community Gardening to the American Institute of Architects Houston Gulf Coast Green Symposium. I am available for advice (in person or via Skype) in building non-Houston area Urban Community Food Programs. BobInTheGarden At urbanharvest.org

2014 sfaa talk.

Urban Permaculture

John Kohler has put together a lot of interesting videos about US food gardening at Growing Your Greens. Last fall he did a video of the urban garden Nancy and I work in and use to teach permaculture as part of the Permaculture Guild of Houston. See Small Space Permaculture Garden on 1/4 Acre at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFDuM2P1E-Q. The classes are part of the Sustainable Living Module taught through Urban Harvest http://urbanharvest.org/permaculture and http://urbanharvest/classes.

Fruit Tree Sale Video

Patrick Gibbs has put together a detailed, fairly comprehensive interesting video on Urban Harvest’s recent Annual Fruit Tree Sales. These are among the largest one day fruit tree sales anywhere and the latest one surpassed even the previous 13 years’ sales. If you want to change the way people garden, given them good access to adapted fruit trees. See http://vimeo.com/81355871

Blueberry Varieties for Southeast Texas

The pdf below is a table which summarizes the various characteristics of the many Southern Highbush and Southern Rabbiteye blueberry varieties that can grow in Southeast Texas. See Fruit Trees and Winter Weather on this website to find out what chill you have where you live.

Blueberry varieties for Southeast Texas

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