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Frost scare

Parts of our state may receive their first frost this week. Learn how to protect your plants and extend the harvest.

Tomato damaged from frost. Photo by Joshua Heyer.Frost may strike parts of North Dakota on Friday morning. This is terrible news—it’s way too early!

This frost might be the end of a disappointing year for many crops. The season started poorly this year due to a cold spring. Most gardens were planted later than usual and never caught up.

As of today, crops in most of our state are a week or two behind. The last thing we need is an early frost.

We cannot stop Jack Frost from coming, but we can be ready for him.

Our first frost is usually a light one (29–32°F). In this case, we can protect our sensitive plants with a blanket or tarp. This will provide a few degrees of protection, which is all we need.

Keep in mind that cold air sinks. Gardens in low spots (frost pockets) are most vulnerable to damage from early frosts.

Cover your most sensitive plants. Tomato, pepper, cucumber, squash and melons are very sensitive to freezing temperatures.

Broccoli, cabbage, carrot and radish can tolerate light frosts and do not require protection. The cool temperatures of fall will actually improve the flavor of these vegetables.

The frost may kill potato vines, but their underground tubers will be safe.

Impatiens, zinnia, celosia, geranium and coleus are among the most sensitive of flowers.

Among the most frost-tolerant flowers are petunia, marigold, cosmos and pansy.

If this week’s frost is a light one, we will likely get two or more weeks of gardening season before a hard frost (28°F or colder) strikes. When that killing frost is expected, you need to harvest whatever tender vegetables you can. This includes peppers, cucumbers and squash. Blemish-free tomatoes with a pink blush can ripen off the vine.

Apples on trees tolerate temperatures down to 25°F before suffering damage.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Article published in NDSU Yard & Garden Report, September 8, 2014. Photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: Joshua Heyer.

 

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