Walking my dogs this morning, I was surprised to see a light dusting of frost on neighborhood rooftops. As all gardeners must do, I made a mental note to adjust my garden tasks as the risk of frost increases.
Frost, by itself, isn’t necessarily bad for your plants. The real problem is that frost tends to exist in the same conditions that lower a plant’s internal temperature to the point that cell walls break down. If you’ve ever left a crop of tomatoes, melons or zucchini out in the cold, you have probably woken to a dismal scene of brown wilted leaves and mushy fruit.
Farmers and gardeners in the NE and the Midwest don’t even try to grow the more delicate natured plants in the winter, but we Californians have the luxury of at least trying. We can protect our crops by using the USDA Hardiness Map to determine your planting zone (I’m in 9b) and learning when to expect frost to occur. According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension office, “Cool, clear nights with low humidity, often following a cold front, are signs of an impending frost.”
UC Davis provides a helpful table that estimates when various areas of California can expect frost in the fall. Keep in mind that these are only educated guesses and that Mother Nature tends to kick our butts whenever we get careless or complacent. If you live outside of California, you can check with your local Cooperative Extension office or Master Gardener office for your first and last frost dates. Armed with this valuable information, you can determine which plants will need protection. You can also follow these helpful tips to reduce the negative impact of lower temperatures:
How do you prepare your garden for winter?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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