Organic Gardening & Farming, Plants

Preparing For The First Frost

It’s a beautiful warm day in the neighborhood, but frost is in the forecast. Good preparations before a frost can do much to ease the transition between the growing season and the dormant season. If you have the resources and the drive, you can even extend your growing season for up to three more months! Here are a few of the preparations I am working on today.

#1: Harvest Remaining Summer Bounty

If you’re dedicated, you can cover your tomato plants to give them a few more weeks. But in my experience, it’s not worth it. During these waning autumn days, my tomato plants don’t grow, bloom, or ripen fruit with enough vigor to make all that covering worthwhile. Instead, I prefer to pick all my tomatoes, peppers, and other heat-loving fruits before the frost arrives. Unripe fruits can often be ripened indoors inside of a paper bag, or pickled unripe.

#2: Disconnect Your Water Lines

If you run hoses or drip irrigation from your house to your garden, disconnect the hose from the spigot at the house prior to frost. If there’s water trapped in your hose and it freezes hard, that ice can cause damage to your valve, spigot, or even to your home water pipes. It’s also a good idea to open all the shutoff valves and remove any water wands or blockers that you may have attached to your hoses farther down the line. Pressurized, trapped water that freezes and expands may damage your tubing or watering instruments.

#3: Protect Glass & Ceramic Vessels

Do you have a glass rain gauge, ceramic bird bath, or terracotta planter? These types of items aren’t very rugged against freezing temperatures. Empty any glass or ceramic vessel that currently contains water. If it’s a small item, consider bringing it indoors for winter. Any potted plants in terracotta or ceramic vessels should also be brought indoors during freezing temperatures to prevent cracking.

#4: Bring Sensitive Potted Plants Indoors

Potted plants experience winter more harshly than plants that are planted in the ground. The temperature underground is much more even and more protected than the air temperature. So while a plant that is marginally hardy in your growing zone might have a fighting chance if planted in the ground, a potted plant will have a much lower likelihood of surviving winter temperatures because the roots of the potted plant will experience winter temperatures equivalent to a climate that is one full zone colder. I let my hardiest potted plants experience winter outdoors along the south facing brick wall of my home, bringing them indoors only during “arctic blast” or other extreme cold weather fronts. But I bring most of my potted plants indoors for any frosty weather.

#5: Cover Herbs and Hardy Greens

You may be able to extend your harvest of certain herbs such as mint, oregano, sage, and rosemary by covering them during frosts. Experience will tell you which plants truly need cover in your area, and when. Certain vegetables such as kale can also survive through the winter months with the right covering techniques.

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