As fall finally arrives, it’s time to think about early frosts and the end of the growing season. At our house, we are happily celebrating the end of the summer squash glut, and I have no plans to prolong that harvest. Our pole beans are looking a bit peaked, and production has stalled. We enjoyed a bountiful crop, so again, I’m happy to let them succumb to frost.
On the other hand, our tomatoes have just started ripening. (They wilted severely while we were evacuated for the Black Forest fire, and I think it set them back at least a month.) The huge plants are loaded with promising yellow, orange, and pale red fruit, and I’m unwilling to give up so close to our goal.
Last night WeatherBug was blinking a frost alert—the first of the season—and sure enough, there was ice on our birdbath this morning. I hate to admit it, but summer is over. I don’t mind the end of the cucumbers; they were overly prolific this year. And the carrots are safe underground for months to come. What I miss are the fresh herbs that we’re still enjoying. So, they’re moving back in with us.
Fresh herbs are pricy at the market, and they don’t keep very long. Yet, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. Since our garden is quite a ways from the kitchen, I have several pots of basil, thyme, sage, oregano, and rosemary right outside the kitchen door. With the weather cooling off, it’s time to bring them inside.
This last week of gorgeous spring weather has certainly brought out the crowds at the garden centers and home improvement stores. When I visited last weekend, carts full of geraniums, tomatoes, and other tender annuals were lined up at the checkout.
Today, the forecast is for snow. It was 30 degrees when I got up this morning. There was frost on the parked cars. As I type, big flakes are softly landing on the freshly turned soil out my window. I wondered how many of the people I’d seen at the store had gone home and planted their flowers, only to find them blackened after the sub-freezing night.
Warmer days flirt with gardeners anxious to get outside and plant something, anything. But the harsh reality of cold nights, coupled with the persistent chance of frost—or even more snow—intrudes on our dreams of summer. It’s far too soon to be trusting Mother Nature with frost tender petunias, geraniums, or marigolds, but there are some annuals that can handle a bit of cold. Don’t expect them to survive wintry extremes, but they should still be alive and flourishing after lows in the 20s.
Annual members of the violet family, pansies are much hardier than they look. Hot and sunny summer days will fry them to a crisp, so now is the time to enjoy them. Pansies prefer enriched soil, and will do fine in full sun or light shade, as long as the weather stays cool. They are slow to start from seed, so buy transplants. Their small size makes them perfect for edging, or group them in containers where they won’t be overlooked. With colors ranging from deep purple and burgundy to pastel pinks, soft peach, and cheerful yellow and white, you can find just the right cultivar to fit any landscape scheme.
We all want to plant our veggie gardens now, but winter hasn’t quite let go of the Rockies. While last week was in the 60s, it’s snowing as I write this, and snow and frost are distinct possibilities for several more weeks.
This is the time of year when we suffer most from greenhouse envy. Yet, for a minimal amount of money, time and effort, you can build a mini-greenhouse right over your garden beds. Here’s how I went about it.