Japanese maple winter in a fridge

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I figured I would share this experiment with the forum incase anyone else is like me.

I love the look of Japanese Maples, but I live in an area with a climate that easily kills Japanese Maples. We often get 1-2 months of -20 to -40. My unheated garage is usually about -10 inside when its -20 outside, but when we hit -30 to -40 even the temp in my garage would likely kill one.

This summer when I was at the nursery I saw they brought in a bunch of Maples. I looked at them with sorrow, both because they are beautiful and ill never be able to raise one, and secondly, because all of them were likely condemned to death when they were shipped to Winnipeg. I gave in however, and did something foolish. I dropped $80 on one.

I figured I'd find a place to put it over winter. Well, that place is a Danby mini fridge.

So far Ive left it outside from Summer until we got an evening of -14°c (forgot to bring it into garage that night). After that it's only seen a low of about -12°c and sat around -5 to 0. I'm not sure if the one evening of -14°c would have been enough to kill the roots but I guess ill see in the Spring.

If it doesn't work this year ill assume maybe I let it get too cold and ill repeat with a palmatum (This guy is a dissectum). Anyways, ill keep you guys updated on my experiment.

Ill update this thread with what temperature range the fridge is operating between.
 

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leatherback

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Are your temps in F or C?

I would say the garage is probably fine most of the time. As the roots are most sensitive, why not have a sandbed with thermostat triggered heating cable which switches on when the air in the garage goes below 10f?

Does your fridge heat? ELse I am not sure whether it would protect from the cold. In any case.. Fridges tend to be very dry environments. I am not sure it is a great idea?
 

Colorado

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Would probably be easier and use the same amount of electricity to just put it in the garage with an automatic heater that is set to turn on at a given temp.
 
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Only crazy Canadians would think of using a fridge to keep things from getting too cold.
Good luck with the trials.
Is that just the fridge light or have you added a grow light in there?
Just the standard fridge light. It's dormant so hopefully it's needs are minimal. This is my first deciduous tree so I can't pretend to know much haha.
How about building a box with a mini heater and a thermostat for winter....?

No belief in my building skills and too many variables. Figured an engineer designed this thing to stay in a temperature range.. My knowledge and skills in terms of building leave much to be desired! We get -40°c here (-40 Fahrenheit and Celsius are actually equal, its where the scales meet). Not sure how low it would get on those nights in the garage with that set up.

Someone said the tree might dry out which is kind of concerning. I wonder if a garbage bag over it and a bowl of water in the bottom would help.

For reference, I built the most basic of a light set up for my tropicals and this dilapidated piece of crap took me about 2+ hours. I'd probably end up killing the tree and setting my garage on fire if my ambitions got any more lofty.
 

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andrewiles

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@Zone 3 Maple lots of people have japanese maples as bonsai in winnipeg! Are you familiar with the local club? It’s listed here:


regarding overwintering, this resource might be help in the years to come:


and Jonas put one together with a broader scope:

 

ysrgrathe

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I think you will probably struggle with humidity control in a fridge. I've heard stories of people killing trees this way by drying them out.
 

Shibui

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Figured an engineer designed this thing to stay in a temperature range..
Most fridges are designed to cool. I don't believe they have heating capacity except to defrost the freezer area so if the ambient temp drops below the thermostat temp only the insulation of the fridge to stop internal temp from dropping too. Eventually the internal temp will fall below the set temp. Lag time will be related to the insulation quality of the cabinet.
We use fridges to ferment beer. A heat pad placed inside the fridge with a thermostat set for the optimum temp range for the yeast being used. When temp is low the thermostat activates the heat pad but if the temp rises above the preset the thermostat turns the fridge on to cool.
Such a set up could be programmed to maintain a set temp in your fridge if you find you really do need to prevent temps getting too low.
If low temps are the problem I suspect you could get rid of the fridge and just use a thermostat controlled heat pad that comes on when temps get too low. Looks like the same temp controllers used by brewers have a range of -40F to 212F so you could limit heating to maintain quite low temps. -see link here - Johnson controls
 
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I think you will probably struggle with humidity control in a fridge. I've heard stories of people killing trees this way by drying them out.

I would not recommend using a fridge in general, but if one REALLY wants to use a fridge i think there would be a lot to learn from the world of DIY meat-curing.

It is usually fairly easy to find a ‘coca-cola fridge with sliding glass doors in a local classifieds section (at least that’s been my experience in big cities where restaurants are constantly opening and closing). Something like $50-200CAD gets you a functional one in like-new condition.

It is also easy to find guides and videos of people explaining how to modify these fridges to control temperature and humidity fairly accurately. The controllers/thermostats by Auber Instruments are popular.

I’ve made prosciutto in a set-up like this, and was able to hold temperature within +/- 2 degrees (celcius) of accuracy, with a +/- 10% range of accuracy for humidity

Again, this is not something i would recommend, but if i HAD to use a fridge i’d start by learning from other fields.
 

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rodeolthr

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When I was growing Japanese maples in Wyoming (high elevation zone 4b), I would spray them at least once in autumn with an anti-desiccant. The dry air and intense winter sunshine can do a number on many trees (winter sunburn). The anti-desiccant is typically made from pine resin in some sort of solvent, so it does break down and may require multiple applications. It could help with your experiment. But I would also make a habit of pulling the tree out and watering it in the kitchen sink using the sprayer to wet everything.
 

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