When Hard Frost Finally Comes

How to Prepare for the Cold

by Sandy Swegel

We’re supposed to get freezing temperatures soon, and it’s getting beyond the point where a bed sheet thrown over the tomatoes is going to help.  This is when the hard frost finally comes and it’s time to harvest those green tomatoes and put them in the house or cool garage.  I personally don’t start immediately making green tomato recipes because I’ve found most of the tomatoes will ripen and turn red if they’re big enough and don’t have wounds where mold will form before ripening happens.

I also harvested cucumbers and some late-season beans and three red peppers hiding under some tomato foliage.  A blanket is going over the big pumpkin that the neighbor’s kid (he’s 30 years old) wants to keep growing until it’s heavier than he is. Last year he made it with a 147 pounds of pumpkin!  All the greens and root crops and cabbages will be fine.

As I walked around the garden yesterday afternoon, I noticed the biggest threat to the remaining plants was drought.  The weather has been cool so I didn’t think about water, but the low humidity all week is sucking all the moisture out of the air and out of the plants.  So I do need to run the overhead sprinkler for an hour or two to return moisture to the leaves.  That extra water on leaf surfaces will freeze at night and help protect the plants.

Water is important now if you garden in an arid place because we tend to let the garden’s needs slip from our minds while we’re enjoying the fall colors.  When we see foliage browning we first assume it’s just the season, but as my poor limp Comfrey showed me, everything needed a good soak.  Rain a week ago has long evaporated from the surface of the topsoil.   A local plant expert told me once that he found the key to helping plants overwinter was making sure they went into winter well watered. Water in the soil will freeze and help protect roots.

One more thing I’ll do before it freezes tonight:  get out there with my camera and take pictures of the garden in its final days of glory. Something to warm my heart on dreary gray winter days.

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