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Extending the season with frost protection

For most of us, the slow down at the end of summer is a relief. Cooler temperatures make working in the garden more comfortable and rain is more frequent. Shortly after the cool down though, frosts arrive. The first frosts are generally very light and may last for just a night or two before milder weather returns. If you can protect your crops from the cool temperatures, then your garden will continue to be productive for several more weeks.

Extending the season with fall frost protection is slightly different to spring protection. The crops are well established at the end of the year and in warm soil whereas at the start of the growing season the seedlings are planted in much cooler soil and take longer to start growing. By just protecting your crops with a simple cover you can keep them frost free as the temperatures drop to, or just below freezing.

Emergency covers can be provided by towels and clothes from in your cupboard, but for more efficient covering you can use a floating row cover for protection. Just as these covers hold off late spring frosts they protect from early fall frosts too. Typically you only need a degree or two protection for early frosts, and a light cover can provide that.

Place the cover on wire hoops that span the crops rather than directly onto the crops if possible. Anchor the cover with rocks or soil to keep it from blowing away. Keep the cover on the crops at night and remove during the day if temperature warm up. Remove the cover completely when the forecast calls for milder temperatures.

If you have cool weather crops in the garden that can tolerate a few degrees of frost, it is easy to extend these well into the snow months or even all winter if you are in the south. Using a heavier cloth than a floating row cover, your crops will continue to produce until the ground freezes. Put a few straw bales around the outside of the bed to decrease wind and maintain some heat.

For even longer seasons you can use a cold frame. These are sturdier than cloths and you plant your cool weather crops right in the cold frame. With a top that opens, you stop the plants getting too warm, but you also stop wind and keep the whole planting bed above freezing. Again a few straw bales, or banking snow against the frame can make the difference of a few more degrees and keep your garden productive almost all year round.

Read the next Article: Growing Herbs Indoors

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Several options are available to overwinter a favorite geranium. The first is to cut it back and pot it up as a houseplant for the winter to replant outside in the spring. The second is to pull it up, brush off any clinging soil, and hang it upside down in a cool, humid basement until replanting in spring. Or, you can cut 4-inch lengths of new stem and put them in water or damp vermiculite to root. Once rooted, transfer to individual pots and treat as houseplants.