First Frost

November 8, 2010

Caleb

garlic shoot

Frost has not stopped all garden activity

It’s been about a week since our first major frost of autumn, marking the end of most, but not all, activity in the garden.  The frost was pretty late, I think, even for as far south as we are—so we counted ourselves lucky.

The casualties of frost included heat-loving basil, tomatoes, corn, and peppers as well as green beans.  We had generously harvested these vegetables, seeing the writing on the wall, or, in this case, the writing on the National Weather Service’s webpage.  We even harvested most sizable green tomatoes.  We may make a dish out of the green tomatoes; if we don’t, then the tomatoes will eventually ripen by sharing ethylene gas with some apples in a sealed paper sack.  The tomatoes haven’t been particularly tasty and probably aren’t that nutritious, but they are ours; and what do you really expect in November?  Unfortunately, the corn didn’t quite make it to maturity before the frost.

Other crops are still going along OK with limited intervention including peas, broccoli, spinach, and clover.  It’s been nice to not have to worry too much about irrigation or weeding.  We’ve enjoyed some peas, but we’re still waiting on the broccoli and spinach.  We’ve had some issues with Imported Cabbage Worms and the broccoli, but a pair of hands and some hungry chickens have taken care of that, I think.  I like the idea of sweeping snow aside to cut some spinach (I’ve heard some varieties can survive to 0 degrees Fahrenheit), but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.  The clover is the cover crop we planted.  Hopefully it provides more cover before it dies off.

Some plants are still going with a little weather protection.  We’ve moved chives, parsley, lemon verbena, and mint indoors, and we’ve been covering some potted lettuce with a fancy-dancy trash bag on cold nights.  The efforts we’ve taken to protect some of our plants have made us even more appreciative of the work professional growers do to extend the season.  Vendors at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market have warm-weather crops for a pretty large portion of the growing season.  We saw tomatoes and peppers this Saturday.

The hardiest of the plants are just starting to grow.  We recently planted some garlic as well as more spinach and chard.  I love that even when we’re not doing anything with the garden, there will still be plants just waiting for spring to perk up.

As of this posting, half of our chickens have yet to lay, so there are still new “harvests” on that front, despite the cool weather.

Even though folks typically see autumn as a time where everything is beginning to die, life is definitely still humming along.  There may even be some weeding in the cards next weekend.

P.S. The Unidentified Farming Objects in my previous post were a corn husker and a rock crusher, respectively. They both operate from an old tractor’s PTO.