By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Frost advisory. That phrase popped up on my iPhone’s weather app last Saturday morning. My husband and I had a busy day, but we knew we would have to hustle if we wanted to save what was left of our garden.
Frosts are like bookends to a gardening season: The last frost in May marks the point where one can start thinking about transplanting and direct sowing the rich fruits of summer while the first frost in September signifies the end of the harvest of those fruits.
Like many others, my husband and I enjoy eating a wide range of seasonal vegetables and fruits, obtained from our favorite farmers at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market or grown ourselves. Yet, the first frost of fall often catches us by surprise.
Longtime Saratoga Farmers Market farmers, however, have learned to prepare for frosts in advance. Justine Denison, of Denison Farms, for instance, notes that advance preparations for frost begin well before one needs to worry about the sudden advisories. By the time a fall frost arrives, the summer crops have mostly been harvested, and either sold or stored, and Denison is busy preparing its fall crops for harvesting, curing or storage.
A light frost doesn’t have to mean the end of your gardening season. In fact, frosts can improve the flavor of some vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, and other hardier greens. Mark Bascomb and Lindsey Fisk of Owl Wood Farms, as a result, work at lengthening the season of their summer crops with row covers and tunnels. They also keep summer crops like eggplants in storage for as long as they’ll remain fresh.
It helps to have some understanding of the hardiness of various plants, and to start keeping records of what works in your own background. One small scale farmer, Pam Dawling, has come up with a good working list for her book Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres. She notes, for instance, that basil will usually die at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, while chives, collards, leeks, and kale can still be flavorful at 0 degrees.
But inevitably seasons change, and that’s not a bad thing.
After all, as Bascomb puts it, “eating locally means eating seasonally,” and even as winter approaches, the offerings of local produce still carry a lot of diversity.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is at High Rock Park through October, from 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
Cold Hardiness Guidelines
Pam Dawling, author of Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, has created this set of guidelines for the temperatures in Fahrenheit for when some commonly grown fruit and vegetable plants will likely die. This list covers temperatures for plants with no row cover or other added protection. You can find more at her website www.sustainablemarketfarming.com/. Keep in mind that hardiness will vary with the location and growing conditions of your garden.
|32||Bush beans, cauliflower curds, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, tomatoes.|
|27||Outer leaves of most varieties of cabbage|
|25||Broccoli heads, outer leaves of Napa cabbage, dill, most Asian greens (tatsoi, pak choi, etc.) fennel, large leaves of lettuce (onion scallions, radicchio.|
|20||Beets, radishes, turnips|
|15||Broccoli leaves, cilantro, endive, kohlrabi, some varieties of kale|
|12||Carrots, multicolored chard, leeks|
|10||Brussels sprouts, green chard, collards, kale|