First Frost: Is There Still Time?

Preparing Your Plants for the Coming Frost

by Sandy Swegel

Frost?  Are you crazy some might say? We’re finally hitting 90 degrees and the tomatoes are starting to grow. And you’re thinking about frost? But this isn’t about the last frost in the Spring…it’s about the first frost in the Fall.  Knowing when the first frost is, is how you know if you have enough time.  I’ve gotten behind in my planting and I really wanted winter squash this year.  Do I still have time to plant or has procrastination done me in this year? How about you? Do you still have time to plant the long-season crop you wanted?

There are two things we need to know: • What is the time to maturity of seeds you’re thinking of planting? • What is your area’s first frost average?

How Many Days to Maturity? The seeds I’m thinking about are the Hubbard Squash, a good meaty winter squash that’s perfect for baking.  The packet says it takes 105 – 115 days to mature and 5 – 12 days to germinate. So I’m going to assume the best case scenario….that I can use the heating pad to get the squash to germinate in just 2 days and then add 105 days till I get my first mature squash.  Delusional, I know.  Nevertheless, at the minimum, I need 107 days to make one winter squash. Today is June 3rd..  107 days from now is September 18th. (What? Summer Vacation will be over before I get squash?!)

When is First Frost? Now I check out my favorite, if obtuse, data chart from NOAA and find out there’s a 50% chance of 32 degrees occurring here in Boulder by October 8th.   There’s a 10% percent chance of freeze occurring by September 20 but I’m going to go the optimist’s route  (and keep the bed sheets ready in case I have to cover the entire plant one night) and say “YES!…I have time to get some winter squash ripe this year.”  Some years we have one night of frost and then weeks of warm weather.  I may not get many squashes that have time to ripen. I should have planted earlier. But still! For the dates for your area, here’s the chart:

Wow, it is later than I think. Gardening is the greatest challenge to the procrastinator…Mother Nature just hates being rushed. Still, I’m relying on her benevolence to give me a strong productive plant and a warm fall so I can enjoy my favorite roasted winter squash this year.

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