31 August 2009

August frost!

An August frost snuck up on us this year. Not too surprising, we did have a frost warning on July 8th this summer, for goodness sake! With an early June frost in the tally, it seems we were only graced with a full 86 frost-free days this season. That's a pretty big swing from last season's 126 days. Thankfully, not much was damaged in this August frost, so here's hoping for a couple of warm weeks to finish up the season!

It got down to about 4C/39F the morning of August 29. At first glance, it appeared that there was no damage, but we do have one mysteriously frost-prone stretch in the garden. Potatoes were planted there this year. It is only slightly lower than the rest of the garden, maybe 4 inches, but it also gets some of the earliest sunlight in the morning, and it is the action of the sunlight on the ice-crystals that burns the leaves. Plants can be surprisingly tolerant of light frost, as long as the frost melts before the direct sun hits the leaves or fruit. I have seen ice coated squash leaves that suffered no frost damage, because clouds rolled in before the sun came up, allowing the ice to melt without damaging the leaf tissue.

The potatoes in the frost pocket were not burned, but some over-eager winter squash vines had started rambling over the potato patch as the potato tops die-back in preparation for harvest. And these errant squash vines got their tender tips knocked back like naughty fingers reaching for the cookie jar. Besides these frosted vines I only found some frost damage on a few basil plants and poppy leaves. No major loss, just an early surprise!

To keep this spring's tender pepper and tomato transplants warm, we lined the rows with hay bales on either side, and never did move them due to the cool summer temperatures. So they are still there to provide a warm pocket that will hold off early light frosts, such as this one. We provided the peppers with an added heat sink of rocks around the base of the plant. The rocks will help to radiate a bit of heat to keep the nightly temperatures warmer. It might be just enough to get a few red peppers this year, though I'm just as happy with the green ones. The rocks also help support the stems of these heavily-laden pepper plants during hurricane season.

The yearly fall migration has begun, and the frosty mornings remind us that winter is nearing.


Chiot's Run said...

No frost here, but tonight the low is in the mid-40's - BRRRR. That's pretty cold for August here in Ohio. Looks like autumn will come early this year. Too bad, all of my fall crops will probably not produce much.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Chiot's, Brrr is right, the cool evening air burns in my lungs on the bicycle ride home. I'm always amazed at how we adapt to winter. Hope the frost holds off for your fall crops!

simplesuburb said...

It's amazing to read about gardening in other parts of the country! Here is California's Central Valley it's forcast to hit 100 today, and we still have 4-6 weeks in the 80's and 90's. But I'm glad to see that someone still gets winter.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

simplesuburb, ahh the sunny valley, suburbian home of my youth. My peppers wish they had another 4-6 weeks, I've got one half-red pepper before a real frost, and that's an achivement! When the snow's on the ground here I love to watch (rather by lurking) spring unfold in Australian gardens, and winter plantings in sunnier climes.