November Gardening: Playing with Frost

November is here and with it comes the first frost for my garden. I live in north central Texas in USDA zone 7b with an average first frost around November 10.

But I always flirt with danger, hoping to extend my garden season for a few warm season plants. With the impending doom lurking with the first freeze, I will be spending my weekend preserving what I can for the winter.

What’s thriving in my garden at the moment:

 

Fall okra. No kidding. I planted okra at least a year ago, but it’s just now coming up. [soon to be killed by frost]

Cucumbers … another one waiting to be bitten by the frost… Maybe I can make a makeshift vertical row cover… I had bad luck with my summer cucumbers because the aphids and mites sucked them dry.

Of course my favorite volunteer Porter tomatoes, god love them, they are tenacious, if anything.

 

Tomatillos. My first endeavor with this plant. I had no idea it would go all over the place. It’s growing habit is more like pumpkins with how it spreads and takes over.

And the ever-resilient Swiss chard. This stuff is hardy and fairest of all. It grows in the winter, spring, summer and fall. It tastes the best in early spring and late fall. It’s frost tolerant to about 25 degrees, which makes it a perfect choice for my winter garden! It’s also delicious, bright and beautiful.

 

Spring: It’s Coming

I started cleaning up and getting my greenhouse ready to start seeds. Today is February 11, but our last average frost date is about March 20. That means it’s time to start thinking about the spring garden. Even as we have a harsh cold snap, I was making way for planting tender annuals from seed so we can transplant after the danger of killing frost.

As for most gardeners, my ultimate prize is a crop of beautiful, tasty tomatoes. Next week we’re taking Jdubs for a checkup at the ENT in Cowtown, so we will have to stop in Poolville on the way home to visit Wilhite Seed. Many sellers of seeds only produce a few of their own (if at all), the rest they resell from other specialized plant breeders/dealers. Wilhite’s domain is melon seeds, especially watermelon seeds. All the seeds I bought from them were exceptional quality, with near 100% germination rates.

Even my county extension agent was surprised. I have no idea what was so extra special about last year’s seed starting exercise – but everything I started from seed did really well, until the heat set in. I knew we were in for it last year when we had a 100-degree day on April 8, 2011. That just set the tone for the rest of the summer.

Last year’s weather was horrible. We had a record-setting hot, dry summer. Nothing would grow. There was no rain. It was abysmal, even the okra was eaten by the grasshoppers. Needless to say, I’m looking very forward to a better year, for growing vegetables and herbs.

 

Nothing says spring like the return of the birds.

That’s the beauty of spring … it’s the time for beginnings … starting seeds, nurturing and caring for them, watching them grow, then harvest. Nothing is better than eating something wonderful that you grew.

The greenhouse.
Left side.
Right side.
My seed box: organizing, sorting, planning.

More gardening posts to come …

There was another squirrel in the backyard. Jdubs helped his daddy aim.

Random Awesomeness in Pictures

Sometimes things don’t quite come together. Tonight was one of those nights… I had plans for this blog post, but Jdubs is not cooperating so I had to redirect. But now maybe it’s going to be something more awesome than I had originally planned.

I looked through my random photographs and there are several I haven’t been able to use elsewhere. So I decided to write this post as random awesomeness in pictures.

A few days ago United Supermarkets had a sale on berries. I LOVE berries, and since it was cold, I made oatmeal and berry awesome in a bowl. And I have serious coffee every day. This is pressed coffee. The French version of Cowboy Coffee; it’s not for sissies.

French Press Coffee. Old fashioned oats, fresh berries, walnuts and a splash of cream.

Supper tonight. I made vegetable soup and chicken salad from a leftover roast chicken. The bread is the awesome country French bread we got at Central Market on Sunday. Oh and those are the little garden tomatoes I picked when they were still green, just before the killing frost. If you leave them out, they will ripen.

Soup and sandwich supper.

I almost peed my pants when I saw this (at Central Market on Sunday). You know how I love Scharffen Berger chocolate. Well here is a giant block of San Francisco chocolaty awesomeness!

OMG. I've died and gone to chocolate heaven.

The UPS man left a great big cat playhouse on the front porch. (That’s what I told the cat, anyway). Awesomeness in a cat toy.

This is awesome until the cat tries to play at 2 a.m., then not so awesome.

Who doesn’t love Sock Monkey? This hat is random awesomeness!

This Sock Monkey hat was a big hit at the supermarket tonight.

When Frost Happens

One and a half days ago the weather really changed when a powerful cold front move through. The temps dropped considerably in an 18 hour span. It went from being summer to fall in a few hours. There was nothing gradual about it. But then again this year has been anything but typical … 10 degrees in February then 100 degrees in April. Really!? Seriously!?

Yesterday… (OK, 1.5 days ago)

Today …

The first hard, killing frost happened close to dawn today – it was 25 degrees at 8:15 this morning. The frost twinkled brightly all over creation this morning.

At the stop sign near my kid’s school …

Sun on the left, frost on the right. Awesome display of the warmth of the sun.

I attempted to cover my garden and a nice stand of Siam basil in my front flower bed. I had beautiful zinnias in orange and pink. Zinnias are a favorite of mine because they bloom constantly and do well in the hateful August sun plus they are drought tolerant. And we had a hell of a hot, dry summer this year.

When Frost Happens, Things Die.

Yesterday …

Today ….


The frost happened, and made this a very sad flower (and a dead flower.)

Frost killed this future eggplant.

Dead basil.

Although, the frost can bring about beauty of its own.

(How great is it to have a handy iPhone when you are driving down the alley and see something pretty?)

Welcome to the weekend, y’all!

Killing Frost and Terrorist Black Flies

The first day of November was glorious—a bright blue sky, upper 70s, no wind, overnight low in the upper 50s. Totally kick-ass weather for growing a fall crop of tomatoes, eggplants and chili peppers.

This is North Texas …It can be 90 degrees one day and 30 the next; we can have 100-degree temperature swings within the same year.


(February 2011. It was 10 degrees. 113 degrees August 5, 2011 after 10 p.m. )

I knew something was up because the last two days have been filled with black flies acting crazy, terrorizing me – at home, the office, the coffee shop, everywhere.

Black flies are one of the most annoying critters on Plant Earth. I grew up on a ranch with lots of animals pooping nearby, let’s just say you can never have enough fly swats, fly paper or bug zappers. But when the flies swarm and act crazier than usual, you know the weather is about to change. After a sudden killing frost you can walk around and see thousands of fly exoskeletons on the ground.

As a gardener, I know the end is near for my tender annual vegetables—it’s November. I’m in USDA zone 7B with an average first frost date of November 14. But, I’m clinging to the hope that I can nurse my plants along, especially since they just started producing fruit after surviving a wretchedly hot, bone-dry summer. (No exaggeration, it’s on record as the driest, hottest summer since 1950).

So I pulled up my trusty weather app on my iPhone and sure enough … big cold front moving in—decidedly not good for the garden.

I put in an emergency call to handyman husband to get supplies at the hardware store and I made a mad 5 p.m. dash to the feed store to get plastic sheeting. An hour and a half later we have the garden covered. (I am not going back out there to take a picture, Ok I took a picture this morning.)

The temps went from 70 degrees to 45 in about two hours with winds gusting up to 40 mph. I made one last harvest, just in case.

Jalapenos are beautiful, fruity and spicy-delicious right out of the garden.

Serrano peppers just off the vine.

Thanks for the help, sweet husband. Eggplant parmesan is in your future.