Fall Garden Update: First Frost
Well, it finally happened last night: the first frost of the season! David and I spent this weekend preparing, and I harvested a few final things yesterday afternoon. Here's a photo journey:
We began installing the cold frame portion of "The Guarden." Above, you can see the PVC pipes bent into the brackets, in preparation for holding up the plastic tunnel. As when we first put together the raised bed, it would have helped to have read all the directions right away. It turns out that David not only needed to undo and redo his over-eager, non-linear girlfriend's attempt to build the raised bed herself, but we would have been better off installing at least the PVC pipe before adding soil, despite the heat. We wouldn't have needed to put on the plastic, but the soil now blocks easy access to add some extra bracketing that would create a tighter seal. Oh, well, live and learn. Plus, soil sinks, so perhaps we'll have an opportunity next Spring. For now, we'll have a cold frame that's not quite as tightly sealed as the original design.
Above, you can see it with the plastic covering, and below, a peak through the zippered side vents. It's very important to vent your cold frame on sunny days! Inside temperatures can scorch cold hardy crops, especially under glass. Think of how hot a sunny porch or sun room can get in winter, and then intensify that by the smaller space and soil activity.
You can also lift the sides for Fall and Winter harvesting:
I just checked on the babies outside, and I noticed an unexpected thing. The plants in the uncovered beds all looked great, whereas the ones under the cold frame were covered in frost. I will need to experiment to see how much of that happened due to added moisture within the cold frame and how much due to the fact that the uncovered beds have already had at least an extra hour of full sun exposure, while the little cold frame that could(?) sits in only partial sun right now due to the lowered sun angle. It might also have something to do with the heat retained by the black beds, as opposed to the white bed that keeps the soil cooler. David's dad offered to paint the white one to match the others, but we thought that would require too much maintenance. I may reconsider if it makes a huge difference in productivity, though. Live, observe and learn.
I did not seal up the vents all the way, either, so I will try that this time. I needed to leave before dark yesterday for the Inner Transitions book group and thus left the vents not too open and not too closed. It may have resulted in a frost-friendly moisture situation. Since all the plants in there are cold hardy, I think they'll be fine. Kale actually tastes better after a frost! Still, it was only 30 degrees last night, so I hope I can count on a little better performance in the dead of winter. I might have to break out my row covers sooner than expected!
After David and I finished installing the cold frame, what to my wandering eyes should appear? A hidden (even from the squirrels and rabbits!) Moon & Stars Watermelon, ripe for the picking. It was tiny, grown in a crate, and totally delicious. It tasted like watermelon bubble gum — very sweet and unlike other watermelons I've tried. It was the first and only watermelon we got this season before any critters drained them of their juice. Definitely worth the wait! Who harvests watermelon in late October?! In Northern Indiana???
The harvest continued, with (non-cold hardy and hopefully, please, please, please perennial if mulched) tree collards and unripe tomatoes:
I gathered even more yesterday:
We've got mint drying for tea and smoothies…
… and lots of lemongrass!
I made another weekend bouquet…
… and a zinnia and pineapple sage bouquet along with edible nasturtiums and calendula flowers:
I expected to find frozen nasturtiums, zinnias and a dead sage today, but everything's still bright and joyful. What a bizarre, wonderful world out there! Good thing the flowers inspire me, because I've got a boatload of bulbs to
hide from squirrels plant. Cheers!