Vermont Garden Journal: Frost

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I’m Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. There’s a chill in the air and frost will be coming soon, if not already. But the first frost doesn’t have to mean the end of the gardening season.

Certainly cold hardy vegetables such as leeks, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and carrots can withstand some frost. Annual flowers such as snapdragons and violas can too. But what about those plants that you want to keep growing in spite of the cold? Well, there are a number of ways to protect them.

While a plastic sheet or tarp is good for short term protection, a floating row cover is better. This cheese-cloth like white material lets air, light and water in, but can protect plants from cold weather. Look for the thickest version (often called “garden blanket”) that can protect plants down to 24F. A simple cold frame made from hay bales, PVC hoops with clear plastic stretched over it, or window sashes on a wooden frame are also a good ways to protect a bed of greens in fall. To really get a heat benefit, consider placing a few one gallon sized milk jugs colored black and filled with water in the cold frame. The jugs will absorb the heat during the day and radiate it back into the cold frame at night. For small individual plants cover them with garden cloches or even a Wall-o-Water.

Finally, consider bringing a few prized plants in when the real heavy cold hits. Dig and pot up geraniums and parsley and place them in a sunny window. Check for any hitchhiking insects for the first few weeks indoors. The parsley will not grow much, but you can finish harvesting the leaves this fall. The geranium is tough to kill and all it will need is the occasional haircut to stay alive.

Now for this week’s tip, do a final weeding of your perennial bed now to remove tough weeds. Add a layer of compost after weeding and it will be one less chore to do next spring.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I’ll be talking about unusual fall foliage plants. For now, I’ll be seeing you in the garden!

Extending the Gardening Season
Extending the Growing Season

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