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Good Gardening: Advice. Before or After?

John Fischer

I'm never sure if I should make garden suggestions after you've had a problem because it's fresh in your mind, or give you a pre-warning even though you might be saying- "huh-that's never happened to me." So today I'll do both.

You should have harvested or protected your sensitive crops before our string of subfreezing October mornings. I picked all the tomatoes red and green, the beans and peppers, and put blankets over my almost mature November harvest corn crop. Kiwi fruit and squash are safely stored in the garage. After the third October in the last four with a hard freeze, maybe these unusual temperatures aren't so unusual. Be ready next year.

Credit John Fischer
John Fischer

A little work to protect from an early freeze can often let your garden produce well into November.

Now an idea you can act on this year: don't pick your winter vegetables in the morning when they're frozen. Kale, arugula, beet greens, mizuna and sorrel will all tolerate temperatures into the teens and twenties. But let them thaw outside before you pick them, or the leaves will get limp and soggy when you wash them in the warm house. The same goes for dandelion greens and bitter cress. I'm told the French like a limp wilted salad- I don't.

While many people feel like cold is the biggest problem for their winter crops, rain can be worse. Having wet leaves invites disease, and waterlogged soil is hard on some plants. Wet produce is more likely to turn into slug food than dry crops too.

Commercial growers use open ended greenhouses to keep crops dry, but not subject them to a cycle of too warm, too cold that is not conducive to good growth.

You can do the same thing with a bit of clear roofing, or a small hoop house- or you can hope for a dry winter- ha!

I'm John Fischer with KLCC's Good Gardening.