Preparing for first frost

VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

It's that time of year again when those of us in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere have to think about the end of summer and the changes to come.

Our low last night was about 35F, so not quite frost, but getting close. Our average first frost date is around September 23, so it's coming.

In the garden, we covered some beans that have almost finished producing the seed for next year. Soon I'll be pulling up the Vermont Cranberry beans and leaving them to dry a bit in the garage. Some plants have been transplanted, refreshing strawberry beds and moving I'itoi onions to a cold frame. Many extra strawberry plants were given away to local friends, and some raspberry plants were given to me and planted. Some of the garlic and fall onions still need to be planted this week, but that can't be done until the beans are pulled to make room for them.

The hinged lids were put back on the cold frame on Friday morning. (They spend the summer in the garage.)

I picked most of the remaining tomatoes yesterday, roasted them, and made a couple more jars of tomato sauce for pizza and spaghetti. They're now in the freezer.

Seeds were ordered early, and have mostly arrived except for elephant garlic.

About half of the garage has been swept of the dirt it accumulated, but the other half needs to be swept, sorted, and organized before winter comes.

We'll probably have to mow one more time before the lawn stops growing. I turned the compost pile over yesterday, and it's ready to have lawn grass dumped on it after mowing.

You're never really done working around the homestead, but things happen quickly as frost approaches. Anything you've been putting off suddenly has to be prioritized. The good news is that once fall harvest is complete, there is much less work in the garden until late spring. All you can really do through fall is pick the cold-tolerant leafy greens that are still doing well, grow a few plants indoors under lights, and wait for spring.

What is everyone else doing as the nights get chilly, the days get windy, and the leaves start to change color?


  • OhiohillsLouise
    OhiohillsLouise Posts: 120 ✭✭✭

    My frost date is is 2 weeks after yours but one thing I do look forward to is cracking open the black walnuts and the hickory nuts. We lost one black walnut tree this year to a storm so they won’t be as abundant but the hickory nuts will make up for that, we always have more than we need.

    When most everything is done outside I move on to baking bread, sewing, and planning for the next gardening season.

  • nksunshine27
    nksunshine27 Posts: 343 ✭✭✭

    ive cleaned out the chicken coop to start the new season of deep liter system. our first frost date may come early this year due to the smoke and red sun that had set in for 2 weeks or more now the chickens arent laying as much. so still have beans flowering and picking. carrots from the first planting need harvested. still picking tomatoes kale is coming up as well as peas and lettuce. then everything else comes out and i plant the garden for the spring so i dont have to worry about planting

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    We saw temperatures around 30F the night before last, with frost on everything in the morning. Last night was colder, with lows around 28F. Tonight the lows are expected to be around 30F again.

    The walking onions and I'itoi onions don't seem to mind a light frost. The Syboe bunching onions took a bit of damage, but still look fine.

    I love Indian summer, the warmer period that often comes in fall after first frost. It's supposed to be warmer later this week, so perhaps we'll get a taste of it. But I think this may turn out to be a cooler fall and and colder winter. We will see.

    Today I need to get several wheelbarrow loads of leaves from the dump piles in our woods and put them on top of the strawberries, fall onions, and garlic to protect them through the winter. Everything is planted and ready to go, so the mulch will be the final preparation.

    Then I need to pull the remaining tomato plants, put away the tomato cages until next May, and let the Fortex beans (which have been under a row cover the last few days) go to seed if they still can.

    I have all of my seeds for next year except elephant garlic, which has been delayed a couple of weeks, and any potato tubers that I buy to supplement the tubers saved from this year.

    The fall garden will be much less work. It's a mix of lettuce, spinach, mustard, and other greens, and I harvest them as needed for sandwiches and salads. These are tolerant of cool weather, and most of them are in cold frames, which gives even more protection.

    Are you ready for fall?

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @OhiohillsLouise  "One thing I do look forward to is cracking open the black walnuts and the hickory nuts."

    I wish I had more nuts, fruits, and other perennials growing in my yard. I found some wild grapes that have recently formed fruit, but there isn't enough to do much with them, and they are small grapes with large seeds that make them hard to eat fresh. If I could get them in quantity, I'd make jam.

    I have thought about planting ground nuts, but haven't done it.

    "When most everything is done outside I move on to baking bread, sewing, and planning for the next gardening season."

    I'm looking forward to some quieter time without so much outdoor work. Your list sounds very appealing to me. :-)

    Once it gets so cold that even the fall garden shuts down for winter, I will plant my indoor salad garden under lights. Seeing a bit of green even in January makes me more cheerful.

  • Nancy Carter
    Nancy Carter Posts: 202 ✭✭✭

    I love this thread! I was wondering what everyone was doing to get ready for the coming season. I pulled the tomato plants yesterday. Making sauce today. We had a total of 184 pounds of tomatoes this year and I'm shocked that I could actually grow that much in my small garden area! Lettuce is coming along nicely. Picked the apples yesterday, not much there. I have fall bulbs to put in the ground for my spring flowers, I usually just randomly toss them in the ground but I'm hoping to be more strategic about it this year. Usually the squirrels redecorate as they see fit!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,517 admin

    We haven't had a frost yet. At least not at my elevation. Up higher there has been a couple of cold nights. Unusual for this time of year here in Central BC. Still harvesting corn at the local corn farms. Again unusual to still have corn right now. So more corn relish is on the agenda for tomorrow.

    I am making veggie stock with all the leftovers from my garden. Just love the smell of it simmering away.

    Hubby is off to get more firewood today. Nearly stocked for the winter now.

  • Brueck.iris
    Brueck.iris Posts: 142 ✭✭✭

    Do traditional frost dates still work in this climate change?

    We didn't have any frost at all last winter, which I have never, ever experienced.

  • OhiohillsLouise
    OhiohillsLouise Posts: 120 ✭✭✭

    Well I think the frost date for my general area was just moved up because some of my friends reported getting hit but I was spared. Really my area should not have seen frost for 2 more weeks. So now I feel I need to pick those last few things that won’t survive the frost.

    @nksunshine27 my chicken coop just got a good cleaning, even the ladder type roosts were taken down, scraped, hosed off, and set out in the sunshine.

    I tried a new canning recipe this week...Spiced Cabbage.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Brueck.iris First frost dates are long-term averages, not precise dates. In any given year, first frost can easily be a week early or late.

  • Gail H
    Gail H Posts: 359 ✭✭✭✭

    My husband said he saw a Tweet from someone in central PA. The have already had three hard frosts. Combine that with the nasty cold snap in late May and he said it's the shortest growing season they've had in 45 years!

  • Gail H
    Gail H Posts: 359 ✭✭✭✭

    @OhiohillsLouise Please share any tricks, tips, hints or equipment advice you have on cracking black walnuts and hickory nuts. Mine always shatter into a million tiny pieces and it's very hard to separate the nutmeats from the shell. I don't want anyone to break a tooth on my baked goods!

  • roytg94
    roytg94 Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

    We have gotten good lettuce produce in our Cold Frame this year. The second planting is small, but hopefully will get larger since it keeps surviving the initial frosts.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    They say our last frost is Oct 15th., but I see frosts any time after Sept 10th., so my motto is always be prepared.

    I am making raised pallet beds today. The pallets are free and I line them with cardboard or landscape fabric. I use a lasagna Gardening layer method to fill them so save on soil. With all my animals and free materials they fill fast and break down nicely. Fro those of you not familiar with lasagna gardeing its a process of layering Brown (dead) materials and green (live) materails in layers to form a composting soil.

    My pallets are usually the size of a window so I can trun them into a cold frame or hot bead easily. I also use pvc piping to make hoops that can easily have a plastic cover put on top.

    I still have cold weahter crops and plan to do winter gardening this winter. I am a zone 5 B so can have cold winters and plenty of snow - then ther wind blows the right direction

  • Angel
    Angel Posts: 61 ✭✭✭

    Our frost date always falls around Oct 19, so we've still got a bit of time left. I have been planting some radishes, and I will put in the garlic in mid-October. Right now, I need to clean up the garden. Cucumbers are mostly done, and I need to clear those out. We just harvested our fall meat birds, and we are going to be fixing up the coop soon due to some predator problems. We still have our laying hens and a few pullets to protect.

    I have some cabbage and broccoli starts in my sunroom that I am planning to transplant soon. They may just end up in pots in said sunroom this winter. I don't know if I'll get them in the ground in time.

  • SherryA
    SherryA Posts: 314 ✭✭✭

    I've been building raised beds for spring, and filling them hugelkultur style. I decided I definitely need more garden space next year.

  • DurwardPless
    DurwardPless Posts: 162 ✭✭✭

    I live in Michigan and we had 2 nights of frost 9-21 and 9-22. I was not ready and our garden was demolished. It didn't matter too much because we had just a few plants left that were producing. What a beautiful year for a garden.


  • silvertipgrizz
    silvertipgrizz Posts: 1,990 ✭✭✭✭✭


    I like your cold frame. I'm going to make a couple out of straw and prolly some old windows. And if I have any wood left over from my summer projects I want to make one like yours. So what angle did you us for the top boards?

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I definitely need to build more cold frames. I never have enough space in them.

    Any pointers to plans for wooden cold frames would be welcome. I'm not happy with the design I am using. And my current cold frames are six years old and the wood is starting to rot out, so I should replace them both in the spring when I build more. (The transparent lids are fine and will be reused.)

    After three frosts, there is no more frost in our forecast. Indian summer, here we come!

    I pulled the remaining beans and left them in the bed as a compost/mulch. There are onions and garlic planted under the mulch. I am so ready to take a long break from outdoor gardening, harvesting, and canning!

  • Ferg
    Ferg Posts: 285 ✭✭✭

    One thing I love about the end of the season is picking all the green tomatoes and making green tomato relish and mock mincemeat with them!