First Frost of the Season
Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Just because frost is coming doesn’t mean you can’t finish off the year with some late-season crops.
Factors That Affect Frost
Consider these factors when deciding whether or not to cover plants at night. Even if a frost is predicted for your region, the micro climate around your garden might affect the forecast.
- In valleys, temperatures at night can be as low as 18°F colder than the temperature on hills nearby. If you’re garden is on a hill sloping toward the sun, it will warm up more than surrounding areas during the day and retain more heat during the night. Cold air, which is dense and heavy, will flow downhill to valleys.
- Trees that surround your garden can act like a blanket, reducing the amount of heat that radiates from the soil. Less heat loss can keep the temperature in your garden warm enough to protect your plants from some of the early fall frosts.
- Stone walls act as heat sinks, absorbing warmth from the sun during the day and radiating it back out at night. Nearby lakes and ponds act in the same way.
- Healthy soil, full of organic matter, better retains moisture, which reduces the amount of water that evaporates. Soil full of water can act as a heat sink and raise the temperature around your plants a degree or two.
- Plants with dark leaves may absorb more heat during the day than plants with light-colored leaves, retaining the warmth slightly longer at night.
Lengthen the Growing Season With Row Covers
Plastic row covers, supported over plants with hoops or sticks, lengthen the growing season for cold-hardy vegetables by 3 to 4 weeks, insulate plants at night from freezing temperatures, raise daytime air and soil temperatures, and protect crops from potentially damaging winds. Save and store the covers through the winter, as they can provide the same benefits in your early spring garden.
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