Before the Last Frost

by - January 25, 2018

Way back in 2011 I posted a series "10 Weeks of Vegetable Gardening" sharing how I prepare for the upcoming spring and summer garden before the last killing frost of the season. That series was created on my previous blog, and some of the content and pictures have been lost in the migration. As I was scrolling through those old posts yesterday, I also realized how much has changed in the garden and how much my boys have grown! Just look at this bit of sweetness:

I want to breathe new life into those old posts and into my own vegetable garden preparations. The past few years seem to have been a whirlwind of elementary school, new activities, new landscape installations, and even new hobbies, and I feel like preparing the garden morphed into "Wait, what? It's time to plant? Well I'm too late for that crop ... What else can I cram along that trellis?" The kids then spent more time dangling from the slackline and tree branches than stomping barefoot on my rows of onions. No longer do I have a toddler and preschooler riding tricycles down garden paths and crawling through tunnels. I have two boys with their own interests and ideas for what we should grow. As the family grows and changes, so does the family garden.

This weekend I will start posting weekly tips and documentation of our own preparations. I have my work cut out for me. We failed to mulch this past fall, and the chickens have torn up all the beds around the yard and several in the veggie garden. The one redeeming thing I did was plant red clover on several of the larger vegetable beds and around the strawberry plants. Hopefully that clover has been hard at work fixing nitrogen, suppressing weed growth, and holding down precious soil in wind and rain.

Each Friday evening I will be posting a weekly guide for prepping your home vegetable garden. I'm aiming for Friday evenings, because typically we do our yard work and Lowes trips on Saturday morning. In Raleigh, the average last killing frost date is April 1-10 (give or take a week), so my first weekend for planting outdoors will be April 8. Check out this frost map to determine your last frost and garden zone.

What is a killing frost? A killing frost is not the same for every plant and varies based on the tenderness of the plant, but generally it is the temperature at which plants are killed. Considering most of what we will be discussing in this space are vegetable sprouts or plant starts, which tend to be tender, we will use "light freeze" as the last killing frost. This means the earliest you should be planting non cold hard plants is your "last frost" date. If you plant on that date, there is a 50% chance likelihood that there will not be another frost.

  • Light freeze: 29° to 32°F—tender plants are killed.
  • Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F—widely destructive to most vegetation.
  • Severe freeze: 24°F and colder—heavy damage to most plants.
Preparing for spring is what keeps me sane in the winter. Come back here and join me in these last ten weeks before spring.

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