Monday, October 19, 2009

An Early Frost

Fall is a bit of a melancholy time in the garden, especially after the first frost when it is time to take out dead plants. I don't know what our "standard" first frost date is around here but to my memory we have usually had a couple more weeks before it got to be a real problem. This year it was before mid-October.

Of course, there is frost and then there is frost. I have found that there are approximately three types of response of plants to dropping temperatures. First are the ones that turn up their toes and die the first time the thermometer gets to 32° F. These include squash, tomatoes, and nasturtiums. Then some others can take a brief dip to around 32°. These include peppers and eggplants, and probably beans. Others do just fine, thank you, with repeated low-thirties temperatures. The cabbage family and many herbs (but not basil!) are in this class. According to my plant physiology studies, the magic temperature for failure of many of the protections that these plants have against frost damage is 28° F. So these days I'm keeping a wary eye on the weather forecasts. Meanwhile, my remaining cabbage, some late-planted lettuce and self-sown dill and cilantro are fine, as are the scallions. I just had to pull out frost-damaged green beans, with pods still on them (I wasn't fast enough), and most of the peppers and eggplant are gone now too after we hit around 30°. I've constructed a tent around the remaining green peppers in hopes of letting some of them ripen.

Meanwhile, there is the garlic to get planted. It is going into the new bed so I'm off to dig in compost.

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