Pre- and Post-Frost Garden Tasks

Reader Contribution by Melodie Metje

Jack Frost is a callin’. With frost comes the end of the signature summer vegetables like basil, tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash. You don’t have to worry about your cold crops like spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli or lettuce; frost just makes them sweeter.

To prolong the season for your potted plants, move them to a sunny spot and place close to a wall. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and herbs will also do well indoors. They are actually perennials in warmer climes. Our cayenne pepper plant thrived indoors in the winter and took off running the next spring.

For all plants, you can use plant covers to protect them overnight from frost to extend the summer veggie season a little further. These can be in the form of plant fabric covers (don’t use plastic), cloches, or a sheet.

For potted plants, place them in a sunny south facing area. Up against a wall is ideal as the wall will absorb heat during the day to keep the plant warm overnight. We gather our pots of greens together and put under a portable greenhouse so we get greens all winter long.

If you have the space, you can surround your pots with straw bales to add an extra layer of protection. You can cover with a hoop house to make a mini green house.

Basil will turn black at the first frost so harvest all the leaves before this time if you are not bringing the plant in for the winter. Now is a great time to take that last cuttings from all your herbs for drying. If you have celery in a pot, it does just fine overwintering in the garage.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can all take some frost. When a “killing” frost or freeze is forecast, it is time to strip all the remaining fruits from the vine. You don’t want to harvest tomatoes from a dead vine. Wrap your green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a dark place. Tomatoes will turn red this way. You can be eating your own red tomatoes through December. They won’t be as good as vine ripened, but they will be better than what you get in the store!

For fall, leave your beds tidy. You can bury or compost the dead plants as long as they were healthy. Adding a layer of chopped leaves and mulch will provide an extra blanket of protection and warmth, breaking down over the winter to provide organic matter for spring planting.

For more tips on organic small space and container gardening, check out Melodie’s blog

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