Monday, October 5, 2009

Preparing for frost

What a shocking title! With weather like today's? And such a gorgeous weekend? However, last week's weather reminded me that the past two years we've had our first frost in mid-October -- not far away.
Actually, last Friday we turned on the heat, using just the flick of a switch. I thought of my father's telling me how lucky I was to live in "modern times" as he shoveled coal into the furnace every day. I had central heating. His childhood nights in NJ were COLD, and he didn't get warm until his mother had lit the kitchen stove, around which the family would gather each morning to get warm again. I did revel in the easy warmth last Friday.
It will soon be colder, although maybe not next week. Until two years ago our first frost was in November. I think three years ago it was late November, and I thought we were going to have shorter winters. However, "climate change" is more than "warming," as anyone who has studied what is going on knows. It's CHANGE.

What won't change, I think, this year is a killing frost before too long. The tomatoes apparently think otherwise. Their babies are popping up all over. Do they think they have a future? Do they know something I don't know? This has never happened to me before in the autumn; I associate volunteer tomatoes with spring. Fred said today he can't wait for the killing frost; it's the end of his acute fall allergies. I have different emotions as I contemplate it.
If I hear that frost is predicted, I'll quickly email you before running to the garden. If you hear of it, do email me and if I am at the computer, I'll pass it on.
What will I do in the garden? I'll hasten to address the needs of five crops: basil, Malabar spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. The first two die at the first touch of frost. I must pick like mad, and preserve or eat as much as possible.
The latter three can survive a light frost with a covering. If you want to try, get yourself some burlap now. I save some year to year, and throw it over any of these veggies that lives in a cage. This often keeps the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers bearing after the basil and Malabar have succumbed. My small tomato plants are looking largely dead, although I still find tomatoes on the vines and on the ground. I think they've lived out their life expectancy, and this is to be expected.
Some basil is turning yellow, as it tends to do in fall. A few plants have wilted away, and I send those to the Essex County incinerator, not wanting to take chances with my compost pile. The leaves don't seem to be growing as large as earlier (3-4"), but that may be because I know the end is coming and am picking them more severely.
It may be worth pointing out that many crops survive the frost that kills tomatoes, including lettuce, arugula, parsley, celery, pak choi, chinese cabbage, carrots, and collards.
Light-bulb! I just realized that the first frost usually comes at full moon. We're through that for October, so maybe we can postpone that first frost to early November. Poor Fred. But who knows? With everything else changing, maybe frost will come with a half moon.


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