Jobs to Do in the Garden Before the First Frost

We expect our first frost of the year in mid-late October most years. Before the first frost arrives in your own area, there are a number of jobs you should consider. Before the first frost you will likely want to:

  • Finish the job of harvesting and storing crops. Some plants will happily stay in the ground in winter, and some even taste better after the first frost. But many others should be harvested before the cold weather arrives. (We’ll be using up the last few tomatoes, for example.)
  • Saving seeds for next year, if you have not already done so. Saving seeds will not only save you money, it can also help you save rare varietals, and do your part to help conserve food stock diversity. What is more, saving your own seed will also help you create plants that are perfectly suited to the environment and conditions where you live.
  • Prep your growing areas, greenhouse/ polytunnel etc. for colder conditions. It is a good idea, once summer crops have largely been cleared out and before winter crops are all in, to spend some time tidying growing areas. You might also be adding mulches, row covers or cloches, or perhaps even heating in an undercover growing area.
  • Make sure rainwater harvesting systems are in place and operational. Make sure gutters are clear and you are managing water wisely where you live.
  • Make sure soil is covered and protected over the winter months (with crops or green manures). And add fertility through mulching etc…

Of course, there is more to do. But it is important to make sure that you have the basics in place so your garden can continue to thrive over time.

It is a good idea to make note of the first and last frost dates in your garden each year, so as to try to discern a pattern for your specific location. Don’t automatically rely on general averages.

A number of different very local factors will have a bearing, as well as the topography and climate of your bioregion. For example, if you live up a hill, at a higher elevation, your first frost may be much earlier than somewhere only a mile or so away, that is much lower down, or by the coast.

Your growing areas may also be located in a frost pocket, where much colder temperatures could be experienced much sooner. You could also have a more sheltered garden, and so have a later first frost even than relatively close neighbours. 

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