Monday, October 13, 2014

Season continues for some gardeners

'Azoychka' yellow tomato Oct 13, 2014
If you were lucky you escaped Oct 12 scattered frosts or covered tender plants and will be rewarded with an extended growing season. We've been in a pattern of cold-hot-cold-hot. This is expected to continue with temperatures again predicted to reach 80 degrees F in a couple days. Life in the high altitude, steppe climate of Denver, Colorado is always a roller coaster ride.

Tomatoes remaining on the vine will continue to ripen and zucchini will continue to grow larger. Just like betting when to plant warm season crops in spring, deciding when to shut down the warm season garden in fall is a challenge. I know some gardeners who have already torn out their gardens. How many more frost "escapes" will us late season garden gamblers have?

Zucchinis Oct 13, 2014
Of course tomatoes still on plants showing some color such as the yellow Azoychkas in the photo above may yet ripen on the vine. The ace in the hole is they are good candidates for picking and ripening indoors if a hard freeze is predicted (overnight temperatures expected to fall into the mid to upper twenties F). Green ones that are small probably won't have a chance but the largest can be harvested and used as fried green tomatoes.
'Bulls Blood' beet and 'Red Russian' kale
Oct 13, 2014

Meanwhile mid-summer planted, cool season crops such as the beets and kale in the photo will tolerate early frosts. The flavor of kale only improves once frosts begin in earnest. This is shaping up to be a year for warm season vegetable harvests to extend late into fall and cool season crops rewarding the savvy gardener with fall harvests as they always do.

Photo credits: Azoychka tomato, Zucchini, 'Bulls Blood' beet and 'Red Russian' kale all credit Carl Wilson.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Frost advisory tonight

October 7 is the average date of the first fall freeze in Denver so it should be no surprise that a freeze advisory is issued for tonight, October 2. The earliest fall freeze was September 8 in 1962 and latest November 15 in 1944.

Some of your gardens may have been nipped when it got down to 33 degrees F last month on September 11, particularly those on the northern part of the Front Range (Fort Collins, etc.). Often we have warm temperatures after these episodes as we have had for the rest of September. Indeed, daytime temperatures are predicted to be in the mid 70's by the weekend two days from now and reach the 80's by midweek.

With these short one or two night possibilities of a freeze it is worthwhile to cover frost-tender vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc particularly as we get near the average first fall frost date. Use covers to trap heat stored in the soil around plants as was done in the photo. A sheet of plastic or fabric will serve as long as the material is not too heavy to break down plants.

In the photo, double frost protection was used, probably overkill for this early in the season when it has been warm. A poly frost blanket (thick floating row cover fabric) was thrown over the tomato cages and then plastic placed over top and sealed into the soil to trap heat like an enclosed greenhouse. Clothes pins were used to keep the plastic from flapping in the wind.

Invent your own frost protection cover out of materials you have on hand. Just remember to uncover or at least ventilate the next morning as sun will soon cook plants covered tightly with plastic.

Photo credit: Temporary frost cover over tomato cages - Carl Wilson