The first major killing frost frost of the season hit us on October 26th. It was actually a little later than i was expecting. We've had a few light frosts before this, but this was a very hard frost and ended the growing. It killed all of the remaining plants and flowers from the summer garden, and even killed a few of my hardier fall plants.
This Swiss Chard in the main bed survived the frost just fine. Swiss Chard is a good fall crop, it can usually stand temperatures down into the 30's and even high 20's. Some of the leaves were a bit burnt from the frost, but overall the plants look pretty good. Unfortunately, the Swiss chard planted in my cold crop bed was not so lucky. It's in a slightly lower spot, and had less protection from other plants around it, i think. Most of it froze, and the frost/temp actually killed the plants. That was a bit disappointing, i really wasn't expecting the Chard to die back until at least Dec. i still have several plants in my main garden, and i may end up constructing a plastic row cover, to keep them around a bit longer.
Broccoli is considered a cold weather champ! It can tolerate some pretty cold weather. This year's broccoli has been really bad. Both the spring planting and fall planting were heavily infested with cabbage worms. i deal with cabbage worms every year, but never this bad. Every year i say i'm going to invest in row covers, but i have yet to do it. Next year may be the year though. i put in around 36 plants between spring and fall, and threw out most of it due to the worms. The green cabbage worms are easy to hand pick off, but the cross striped cabbage worms get inside the flower head and spin a silk that holds them in place, so even after soaking in salt water you still have to pull the heads apart and pick out worms. i was hoping that the cold snap would have killed off some of the worms, but t seems they just burrowed deep in the flower head. Pretty disappointing, and i'm usually able to freeze a bunch to use in broccoli cheese soup over the winter. The frost didn't bother the worms or the flower heads, but it did leave frost burn on the broccoli leaves.
i have a bunch of fall lettuce planted, and although it was heavily frosted, most of it survived just fine. i had one patch get some pretty good frost damage, while another patch that was planted maybe 6 foot away, looks perfectly fine. This is one of the reasons i like to plant in multiple gardens, rather than just one. Sometimes the frost is patching, and will hit one area but not another. Most everything that was planted in the lower bed was wiped out, while this upper bed sustained very little frost damage.
The flowers that had taken over the garden finally froze, and have all died back. So now the garden clean up has began. We had a couple nice days this past week so i've been out in the evening trying to clear the bed, and already thinking about what i'll different next year. It's a lot of work, and part of me wants to just leave it and let it sit until spring.
Between the spring rain, the blight, the bugs etc....it's been a really rough gardening season. i had one tomato plant survive, although it took so long for the tomatoes to develop i didn't know if i would get any. When the threat of frost was predicted, i stripped the plant of green tomatoes. i really didn't expect them to ripen. Although the plant didn't succumb to late blight like the others, i had removed several green tomatoes with the tell-tail brown blight spots...so i knew the plant had blight. i also knew from last years experience, that even if i pick the tomatoes green there is a good chance they will develop blight spots as they ripen.
So it really felt like a small blessing, when all at once my tomatoes began to ripen. We had quite a bit more than this. i was able to freeze about 2 quarts, and i've been having tomato sandwiches daily. Of all the green tomatoes picked, only two developed blight spots after they ripened. i do not know if we were just lucky, or if this plant is somewhat blight resistant. i'm pretty sure it is the Hillbilly Variety. i will definitely be planting them again next year.
After the killing frost, Mother Nature always teases us with another 3-4 weeks of perfect gardening weather. i definitely have come to expect it for this area, but it frustrates me none the less. Thankfully not everything was killed, so i still have a few patches of leaf lettuce, swiss chard and kale. My beets which are supposed to be extremely cold hardy, were looking pretty wilted. i think they'll recover, but i was surprised that the frost had affected them so much, and yet my young tender lettuce had very minor frost burns on a few leaves.
i planted a bunch of spinach, but it didn't germinate very well. i have a few really good looking plants, and a bunch of new spinach coming in. i also put spinach in the makeshift hoop house, soi'm hoping to get a good yield this winter. Spinach is really tolerant of cold weather, and i remember a few years back digging under a layer of fresh snow and finding the spinach still looking perfect. It's a heavy feeder, and i need to fertilize it a bit better this fall. Typically i like to add a load of manure and compost in the spring, and this year we didn't do either. i'm really kind of amazed that i was able to grow anything this year.
i have my fingers crossed that i do get those 3-4 weeks of good weather, i planted more lettuce, kale and spinach earlier this week. :) i guess i'm not quite ready to settle in to the routine of winter yet. i've got to hang on to that garden just a little bit longer.