This year we have been experimenting with late crops. We have planted a few verities testing for hardiness. To name a few we have bush beans , Scarlett Runner Beans, beats, carrots, broccoli, and too many more to mention. Not to mention the crops planted in the spring that just wont stop producing!
The heirloom verities we chose for this year were picked based on hardiness and store-ability and as with many heirloom verities they are producing well into the fall. This has created the need for a thorough understanding of frost prevention.
The key to battling the frost is the prevention. The evening before I check multiple weather sources. We all know how reliable weather forecast can be so its important to use a few sources if available and err on the side of caution. NOAA is great when we want to avoid all the unnecessary banter of the TV.
When erecting frost barriers it is important to start and finish before sunset. When the sun has fallen below the horizon much of the heat in the soil has dissipated. By adding row cover, sheets, buckets, etc we are actually trapping the heat. If the ground is dry watering the soil at the roots can also help.
For our purposes we have been leaving some plants uncovered to test for hardiness. The Scarlett Runner Beans have done outstanding, virtually maintenance free. No water all summer and no frost covers. Also notable is the results with our zucchini, Squash Zucchino Rampicante to be exact, which is still producing after having been planted in early spring. I have let some of this plant grow up the downspout on the house and found that the vines growing on the side of the house are virtually unaffected this year by even our heaviest frost. This is important to note because I didn’t have to do anything to cover or treat this plant. The lack of frost can be directly related to the slight temperature difference on the side of the house. So as far as survival gardens go it would be advisable to plan ahead in the spring to have some vining verities of vegetables close to a heated structure particularly on the south side.
Other methods we have found helpful are using tarps and old sheets as well as over turned buckets and pots for smaller plants. There are many different products available but if you understand how frost prevention works you can construct many of the things you need for free. You must trap the heat from escaping. Just remember heat rises and the cover mustn’t touch the plant.
For instance one method I have been experimenting with is using old windows. If you have been reading for very long you know that I am not afraid to do a little dumpster diving and trash picking. I have been fortunate enough to find about a dozen window over the past year or so. Using windows is very easy and can cover a couple of large plants. I use mine as an “A” frame, leaning two windows together meeting at the top creating two sides of an isosceles triangle. By drilling a couple of holes in the frame at the top I join the two windows with some twine to prevent them from falling and crushing the plant. In the event of a heavy frost you may want to cover the sides.
After the frost, covers must be promptly removed. After the sun has risen above the horizon, at lets say about 8:30 or 9 we remove our covers. Leaving the plants under the covers all day can damage the plants.
We usually get our first frost here in southern Ohio towards the end of September but by taking these few extra measures we are growing a large amount of vegetables well into October now. Keep in mind just because a few leaves have been damaged does not mean the plant is dead. Give it some time I have seen zucchinis recover after every leaf was frosted.