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When should I winterize my misting system?
As fall arrives and winter is right around the corner, you need to begin to think of exactly when to take apart and winterize your plant propagation misting system. Turning it off to prematurely may damage your cuttings, too late and your misting system itself may be damaged. Read the article on winterizing your misting system using an air compressor, and this one on winterizing your misting system using gravity, both at the Mistkits.com blog, for a few things to consider before you begin to winterize your misting system.
Now that you have an understanding as to how the winterizing process is done, you need to figure out precisely WHEN to do it. That is not as hard as you may believe.
The one thing you need to know before dismantling your misting system is the distinction between a frost and a freeze. Kathy Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening has previously written a great post on the differences, so I wont get into all the particulars, but to excerpt her article:
Both [the frost advisory and the freeze warning] are only issued during the growing season. A Frost Advisory is issued when the predicted temperature is expected to fall to 36 degrees or lower in the next 3 to 30 hours during the growing season. So temperatures 35 to 40 range would also dictate a frost advisory. A Freeze Warning is issued when there is an 80% or greater chance that the temperatures are expected to fall to 32 degrees (F) or lower in the next 3 to 30 hours during the growing season. If the temperature is expected to fall below 28 degrees (F) this is considered a Hard Freeze.
Learn more at: Cold Climate Gardening
So essentially what we need to worry about when deciding when to disassemble the misting system is when the temperature will fall below 32° F (0° C). If the temperature is predicted to fall below 32° the water within the piping, solenoids, and misting nozzles will freeze. When water freezes, it expands. This expansion is where we run into trouble. A misting system that freezes has the potential of having the piping, solenoids and mist nozzles breaking because of this expansion. Depending on exactly where the freeze occurred, you have the potential of water constantly running onto the ground or your cuttings because of a water main break, your cuttings getting no water when they should, or the cuttings getting too much water if the misting nozzles are damaged.
To minimize the likelihood that you will have frozen and damaged misting components you need to be sure you drain the system before the first freeze.
As I write this, Maine is experiencing very cold temperatures. This is very unusual for October. Just two days ago I made the determination to drain my misting system for the winter. I did this based on the weather forecast that the evening temperatures would get below 32° for a few nights. This time of year, the cuttings I took a month or so ago are essentially semi-hardwood anyway and misting them is almost a waste of time. If I keep them watered, they should eventually root. Even if they do not root, the crop is worth much less than my misting equipment.
One thing to keep in mind when making the decision to drain and winterize your misting system for the winter is the impact of frozen and broken equipment. It is much easier to start a new crop of softwood cuttings in the spring than it is to fix misting equipment. Just keep the cuttings watered until the ground freezes and they should be fine.
Dwayne Haskell is the author of this article. Visit his most
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