I got out the plant blankets.
Going into last weekend, it became pretty clear that we were headed for a cold front, so I pulled out a few extra pieces of floating row cover and visited my cloches and cold frames. I laid the FRC directly on the plants, doubling it over the salad greens like lettuce, which are my most tender crops.
Sure enough, cold and snow came a-calling.
Two types of cloches protect plants in my front yard.
And the hot caps are still doing their job.
Meanwhile, in the rear garden, all the season extension devices are white. Not a lot of solar gain getting through them, but the snow makes a good insulator against the cold.
Some plants were not bothered at all…
while others took the seasonal change pretty hard.
And as to the fate of many of the plants, only time will tell. I will not be opening the season extension devices and pulling off their extra blankets until the weather warms back up to its seasonal temperatures of mid-40s daytime/high 30s nighttime.
Thanksgiving morning I went out early into the garden for a few final herbs for the turkey stuffing, and a warm rain misted my face. I zipped open the cloche to send the breeze through the salad greens, ready for picking.
Over at the cold frame, which is bursting with more salad, the soil thermometer read 52 degrees. The tiny Cascadia peas in the back, which I intended to overwinter for next spring, are flowering.
And I took the plunge into the chillier (45 degree) wet soil under the floating row cover to grab some carrots, yellow and orange.
I took a tour around the yard to see how the other veggies are faring under my various season extension devices. Found the small Siberian kale (which, in defiance of its name, had been floundering on its own) was looking pretty perky under a row of three “hot caps”: a plastic dome and two dirty yet effective glass bells.
Finally, the dino kale, which did not get the nod as part of the Thanksgiving feast, impressed me as usual with its rich bluish color and bushy sprouting of dark new leaves.
Seeing all the greenery, basking in a warm mid-’50s breeze on a day that was to reach nearly 60, clearly there was a lot to be thankful for.
The rain didn’t dampen my mood as I chopped the herbs into the stuffing mix and readied the turkey for the oven. Note to self: next time, go a little heavier on the herbs: though ours are garden-fresh, they’re just not as pungent as those from our local farmers available at the market.
We sat down to a dinner that included a half-dozen types of produce from our garden, the rest from Northwest farmers, and wines from the region. More thankful feelings all around.
Later we enjoyed a stellar pumpkin pie that Susie made from our own “Cinderella coach,” the heirloom Rouge vif d’Etampes pumpkins that had been decorating our table since Halloween.
As the holiday waned into a big football win by our hometown Seahawks, I saw the warning on Cliff Mass’ weather blog about a cold snap coming. I made a mental note to get out into the yard again on Friday morning to add a little extra protection to the plants.
Cool-season gardening means paying attention to those rumors and reports, and timing it just right to make sure all your effort doesn’t amount to a soggy pile of wilted leaves after a cold snap. Or a bout of snow, which was also in the forecast…
We had an unexpected snow here on Sunday, which was pretty significant. Late in the season for us, and it was more than just a dusting. So here’s what happened with my winter veggies.
I know I talk a lot about plants preparing themselves for winter, but these two photos of kale during the snow and after it had warmed up will show you the resiliency these amazing plants.
Same plants, I promise you!
Here’s the overall brassica bed in snow. Notice how the Brussels sprouts and dino kale in the background have also closed up to protect themselves.
And here it is after the snow has
gone, and we returned to our normal, rainy, near-50 degree F. weather today.
They look positively chipper, don’t they?
Not to be outdone by brassicas, the Little Gem lettuce that I’ve been nursing all winter also fared quite well in the storm. Here are my two cold frames — the triangle tunnel and the box cold frame — after the snow has gone.
In these photos you can see the extra steps I took to keep these alive. In the triangle tunnel, I added floating row cover right on the plants, and then an extra, commercial tunnel cloche under the tunnel. Thank goodness it fit great. In the box cold frame, I added a layer of floating row cover, just laid on the plants. This was easy and took just a minute.
Two final photos. Today I took a close look at the dino kale (Lacinato), and saw a lot of bright green shoots coming from its tops. Is there
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your garden get frosted over last night? Here on Phinney Ridge in Seattle, I experienced a light frost: slight pockets of it on the grass, and my cold frame (and all the neighbors’ roofs) were covered this morning in white.
It glittered brightly but quickly burned off in the morning sun.
How are your plants? A bit of precaution is needed to keep tender vegetables alive.
By the time I got out to look at it this morning, the sun had already turned the frost to water droplets on the corrugated polycarbonate on this cold frame.
If you don’t have your plants under a cold frame or a cloche, you can still protect them during this cold weather with floating row cover (FRC).
Called garden fleece in England and known here as crop cover or by brand names like Reemay or Frost Protek, it can be laid loosely over plants, even just draped there overnight. For very tender plants, fold it into two layers. Be sure to hold down the edges to keep it from blowing away, or cover the edges with soil as I did for this row crop:
Air, water and light can get through the FRC, but it provides enough of a barrier on many crops to keep frost from laying directly on the plants and killing them. Even though it’s called fleece, it doesn’t keep the plants much warmer, so it wouldn’t be enough of a cover to keep lettuce alive if the nighttime temperatures are dropping below 32 degrees F, as they are in many places around Puget Sound right now.
If you don’t have any FRC on hand and you still want to shield your veggies from frost, just carefully cover them with an old sheet or blanket overnight, but be sure to remove that each morning.
Want to know more about our weather patterns, and why we are having this spate of cold, clear weather right now? Check out the excellent explanation of the “modified continental polar” air we’re experiencing now from UW Professor Cliff Mass’ blog.
This art by Terry Huang was on the chalkboard in City People’s Garden Store advertising the class I gave today
on season extension. Jack Frost is good, but the cloche-hoop dress on the lady of spring makes it. And the whole scene exudes a Victorian vibe straight out of Downton Abbey.
Thanks for the great promotion, City People’s, and thank you to the many returning students who are attending my series this year. Our next class, Growing Great Tomatoes, is
Saturday, April 27, 10-11 a.m. Please pre-register if you’d like to attend.