Fall is here! October is here! Where did the time go? While I love this time of year, it is time to say goodbye to my plants and old, tired garden beds. Like summer hitting early before Memorial Day this year, winter seems to be bearing down on Minnesota and Wisconsin (some areas of Minnesota got a snow already)! In this podcast, I am going to talk about how the First Frost was the End of My 2018 Garden Season.
Listen to the Podcast here:
Welcome to Fall!
Fall is my favorite time of the year:
- Days and nights get cooler,
- Leaves are changing all around us and
- The world seems to be very quiet at night.
At the same time, our gardens are changing rapidly: shorter days mean less time for plants to grow fruit. Cooler days are good for some plants like salad greens and spinach, but not great for tomatoes and peppers.
Like it or not, the first day of fall and October marks the beginning of the end of the Garden Season here in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Frost, snow and the long march through the winter is coming, and gardeners try to squeeze out as many days as we can this time of year so those tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables get a little bigger. Unfortunately, that is not the case this year.
First Frost: Garden’s Grim Reaper
The single biggest event that looms large for gardeners who live in the North Country is the first frost. That one single event can be the Grim Reaper for many gardens, not only for plants but the fruit hanging from those plants. I have lost peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to the First Frost and you can see the results on Small Scale Life by clicking this link.
When we have our First Frost, plants die, and fruit literally turns to mush. It turns out that our highly prized veggies are made of water, and freezing water does terrible things to the cell structure of plants and produce.
To check for the first frost (Fall)/last frost (Spring), there are a number of sources out there, but here are three that you can use (keep in mind the third link is for Minnesota residents only):
This is good information to know as you start planning your garden in the spring and prepare for the final harvest in the fall.
You can extend your season and avoid the First Frost by using row covers, tunnels or (my favorite) sheets over your plants. I discussed covering your plants in a blog post a while back, but you can read all about that on Small Scale Life. I also had some videos on covering plants on the Small Scale Life YouTube Channel and Small Scale Gardening YouTube Channel as well.
First Snow: Winter IS Coming
While the Twin Cities was bracing for the first frost of the season, other areas of Minnesota were bracing for their first snow of the season.
Let me say that again…..
Bracing for their first SNOW….in Minnesota in September.
Snow was in the forecast for parts of northern Minnesota last weekend. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it! I saw that alert and shared it with the Minnesota-Wisconsin Regenerative Agriculture Group to get the word out. I wanted fellow gardeners and homesteaders in the north to prepare mentally and to get covers on their gardens.
As Saturday rolled around, I saw reports from friends up in Baxter, Minnesota, and other northern towns who were showing pictures and videos of snow coming down. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not cool! I am not happy about that! Winter IS coming!
While we did not get any snow in the Twin Cities, I fully expected the First Frost to do its worst to my little North Minneapolis garden on Friday night. I was not going to be able to cover my plants since I had a family obligation.
Since I was not able to cover my plants, I made the executive decision to harvest everything and call it a season. Of course, this decision was made easier when I noticed one of my tomato plants wavering unnaturally on Friday morning. I soon found out that Karma the Wonder Dog had once again hopped into Super Max and wandered through the bailing twine holding up the peppers and tomatoes. Some of the tomato vines snapped, and at least two pepper plants were pulled out by the roots. Guess that’s what happens when a 60 pound animal jumps the fences!
After surveying the damage, I grabbed some bowls and picked peppers (bell pepper varieties, banana peppers and jalapeno peppers), tomatoes and kohlrabi. I left a few small green tomatoes on the vine, and I left the smallish onions in the vertical garden. I also brought my greens in the seedling tray into the house. I would figure out what to do with them….later. I did not expect anything planted in my garden to survive the weekend.
When I finally got back home on Sunday and looked around the garden, I was surprised to see that the plants (that hadn’t been stomped by Karma the Wonder Dog) looked healthy. The remaining tomatoes looked good as well.
I talked with my neighbor, and she said that while it got very cold on Friday night, we did not get the First Frost in the Twin Cities. Her plants survived as well! I guess we can chalk that one up to the Twin Cities heat island.
Still, the fact of the matter is that my 2018 Garden Season is over. It ended rather abruptly and without any special ceremony. I guess Ernest Hemingway in “The Sun Also Rises” was correct when he said, “Slowly; then suddenly.” Of course, Mr. Hemingway was discussing bankruptcy, but the same applies to the 2018 Garden Season.
I am planning to start clearing out the garden beds and adding layers of leaf mulch over the soil. I typically mow up leaves and add the leaf bits to the soil as mulch. I find it adds nutrients to the soil as the leaves break down, and mowing up the leaves helps with that process.
At the same time, I will start working on the 7 Steps for Winterizing My Garden as I discussed last year on the Small Scale Life Podcast. I will start to put garden tools and equipment away and empty the rain barrel. There is just no need for that equipment at this stage of the season.
Some additional Fall projects this year include the following:
- Remove the “Super Max” green fence around the garden area and moving it to bare areas of the yard,
- Plant grass seed in bare areas of the yard and
- Plant the surviving comfrey from Nature’s Image Farms in the garden area.
While I am pretty much done gardening this year, there are just a few tasks left to be completed before the snow flies here in Minnesota.
I will write a 2018 Gardening Lessons Learned article and record a podcast in the near future, and I will be discussing my plans for the New 2019 Garden soon! I have some ideas to make incredibly productive raised garden beds that look GREAT and WON’T break your bank. More on that later.
How About You?
My questions for you are:
- How is your fall garden holding up?
- Do you have frost in your forecast?
- How will you protect your garden against frost?
I would love to hear your feedback. If you have any comments, advice or stories, feel free to leave a comment, send feedback to me at realsmallscalelife [at] gmail [dot] com or hit the Contact Us page on smallscalelife.com. I would love to hear your experience and learn from you!
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