Frost Tolerance in Vegetables

With the temperatures predicted to drop into the 40’s this coming week, it’s a good time to reassess the garden and figure out how much time is left for what’s remaining. High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont has a quick run-down of what will tolerate the different frost conditions. Even if you don’t have a garden, it’s a great way to know what to expect will be available at the farmers’ markets:

Frost Tolerance in Vegetables

Fall is on the way, and many of us in the northern part of the country have had frost warnings, or will soon. Some gardeners are tired, and happy to let the frost kill the remainder of their garden —  while others are eager to get as much out of their garden as possible. If you fall into the latter category, the following information is a quick run-down to help you to decide how you should proceed with your fall garden.

Light Frost: If you hear that a frost is on the way, even a light one, you should harvest all your “frost-tender” crops such as:

  • cucumbers,
  • peppers,
  • tomatoes,
  • summer squash,
  • eggplant,
  • melons and
  • okra.
  • If the temperature is not going to go below 30 F, you can cover the above mentioned plants with burlap sacks, buckets, baskets, floating row covers, or blankets supported by stakes. This will allow the immature fruit to ripen in the remaining warm days.

    Heavier Frost: Colder temperatures (26-31F) may burn the foliage of, but will not kill, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, beets and leeks. In fact, some of these crops, as well as parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and brussels sprouts actually produce the best flavor when they have had a touch of frost!

    Overwintering: For gardeners located in warmer climates, you may find that crops such as spinach, lettuce, parsnips, carrots, parsley, kale and leeks may survive all winter long. To help these plants overwinter, make sure to mulch them. (You can read more about mulching in Winter Mulches for Vegetable Gardens by Barbara Pleasant, or read about a variety of mulches to use from the University of Georgia’s Extension office – Mulching Vegetables.) Most of these vegetables can be harvested throughout the winter.

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