Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

October 11, 2008

Fighting the freeze

First off, I'm sorry to billbillbillbill (Freedom Gardens member) for lagging on getting this post up. Life... it happens, you know?

Anyway, on we go. Those of us local to Utah have found, as have many of our fellow gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere, fall is upon us. And with that the first frost/freeze warnings of the year. We received our first one this week and from the looks of it, it should be a hard one. The forecast is even calling for the possibility of snow in the valley. Drastic steps must be taken!

As you can see, the majority of my garden was removed this week. It's always a hard part of the year for me, sort of a gardeners version of separation anxiety. The beans were done though, as were the cucumbers, but the carrots that were growing in the area under the cukes have been left to overwinter. The only things being kept in the summer garden to try and stretch the harvest of are the tomatoes.

The last few nights have really pushed the limits of what the tomato plants can handle. The night before last in particular. I thought that for any of you that may be new to vegetable gardening I would show you what the signs of too much cold are on your tomato plants.
See there on the left hand corner of that tomato, the almost translucent part of the fruit? That is frost bite. That part of the fruit has been damaged. It's not necessarily beyond hope, depending on the amount of frost bite that happened. Then in the picture on the right, you see the darkened and wilted tips of one of the new shoots coming up on the plant, it's been frost bitten as well. This won't kill the plant, but honestly that shoot will most likely die at this point. It's OK though, I'm gonna tell you what to do with it here in a minute anyway.
Here are a couple of the tomato plants that I have growing in my beds. The one on the top is my brandywine. It had a very slow summer, I learned that it was not very tolerant of our hot summers here, and now that I've finally set a good number of fruit on it by golly I'm not just giving up on it! The one on the bottom is my San Marzano. I'm keeping it going just for the sheer number of green tomatoes on it.

What I did to these to get them ready for my version of season extension, and which will resolve the frost bitten plant tip from the previous picture, is to prune them. I trimmed the heck out of all of these prior to covering them. This site illustrates tomato pruning very thoroughly so I'll just link to it and not reinvent the wheel. Essentially, the idea is to top the plants, and remove all new growth so as to allow the plant, which is already getting stressed from the cold, to focus on maturing the already set fruit and not to growing more foliage or new fruits.

After I pruned them, and cleaned up the ground around them, I covered them with a 4 mil. clear plastic cover, basically making a small A-frame greenhouse. Let me digress here for a second... I also placed a little garden addition in the beds a few days back that really helps moderate the micro-climates around the plants as well... black water bottles. All they are, are plastic 1 gallon water bottles that I filled with some tap water after painting them black. They will get warm throughout the day and then hold that heat and radiate it back out throughout the cold nights.

I place them right at the bottom of the plants in the path of the sun, and they will slowly radiate that heat back up all night. I took the thermometer picture yesterday afternoon at approx. 3:30 PM when the outside temps were around 50-51 deg F. The temp in the water container is almost 80 deg F. So...back to the A-frame.

Voila! There it is. I want to take a minute to make the statement that this is yet another great benefit of trellising in the home garden, I can't speak to their benefit enough. The trellis that I used this year to hold up the tomatoes is the top of this cover. It allows me to leave the cover over the plants and to be able to get inside to water or check the fruits without removing the whole cover. A very nice benefit.

Fall is beautiful, and it's an important time for both the garden and the gardener to slow down a little, catch their breath and get ready for the next year. If you're really motivated it is possible to harvest all year, although I'm not quite to that point myself yet, perhaps next year. There are a lot of really good ways available and I'm sure some products one could buy to do much the same, but either way if you're not quite ready to give up the battle against the freeze then put together a plan, give it your best shot and as always learn from the process.
Good luck all.
Stay tuned for some interesting and very cool news to come on the next post.

1 comment:

Sadge said...

Cold, cold, cold here in northern Nevada, so I'm sure it's heading your way. We had light snow last night, & temps in the 20's. On my kraut, the zip part of the bag just fits up the side so no problems (and I needed something that would lie out flat enough. Glad to turn you on to root pruning cabbages - I still work on getting the timing just right. Really nice teepee cold frame. And you're right - exciting news coming!