The only person I've ever known who truly loved winter down to the core of her very soul was my mother. She adored winter. She loved the way the sun's glint reflecting off frozen windswept snowdrifts could blind a person. How sub-zero temperatures could cause metal earrings to sting one's earlobes and make the nostril hairs inside one's nose hang like icicles. She's dead now. That's what loving winter does to you.
Me, not so much. I'm not a big fan of winter. In fact, I grew up believing that California and Hawaii were among some of the best places to live in America. Notwithstanding how expensive Hawaii is, that makes Sacramento a dream destination with affordable housing and friendly people. We enjoy mild winters, too, a little snow in the foothills, but for most of the season, I don't even wear a coat.
The biggest problem with winter where I live in Land Park is frost. When those temperatures dip in to the 30s, some of the plants in my garden don't make it. Especially the cacti and succulents. I lost several gorgeous cactus plants last year, and am bound and determined it's not going to happen again this year.
Enter the picture: water wells. I had totally forgotten that we had a stack of these frost protectors in our garden shed. My husband and I used these to get an early start on growing tomatoes when we lived in Minnesota. They worked great. We could get a 30-day jump on everybody else by setting out our tender plants in late April and surrounding them with water wells. Didn't matter if it snowed or temperatures dropped, our plants were protected.
This year, I am protecting my cacti and succulents from frost and have already set up my water wells. See the photo above of my Land Park cactus garden. They look sort of weird, like aliens have taken over the garden, but I'm not losing my plants again this year. Here is a place where you can get them online. This gardening company calls them tomato teepees.
The water wells are made from plastic and feature individual chambers that hold water. So, if one of the chambers is punctured by a cactus thorn and leaks, the rest of them remain intact. They work by absorbing heat from the sun during the day and keeping the plants warm. The secret to filling them is to place a 5-gallon bucket over the plant, put the water well around it and, after it's filled, pick up the bucket. I'll report back in the spring.
Photo: Elizabeth Weintraub