FROST Warning - Caring for your Vegetable Garden

A vegetable garden is both fun and exercise for those who grow a small one or have the time and space for a larger one. The rewards can be great with fresh vegetables and canning or freezing them for the family dinner table as well. We actually do all three and spent a lot more time preparing it this year after a couple of years of less activity.

Acorn Squash
In the fall we fertilized, placed some peat moss on the surface and then used the rotor tiller to mix it into our sandy soil. Early in April we rotor tilled it again after adding a bit more fertilizer to eliminate weeds and started putting in hardy plants and seeds like lettuce and spinach (we tend to be away in March someplace warm and sunny so we do not start plants in the house). We did one section at a time and had a drawing with our plan and this year we did a couple of new things.

First, the stick! The deck had a few extra 2 X 2 boards and I cut one to 30 inches to use as a marker. Carrying a tape measure into the garden just did not happen and 24-30 inches was almost a standard for most plant rows. That width would also allow the rotor tiller to pass between rows later in the spring/summer and save us a lot of hoeing. We ended up filling in our fenced in area this last weekend and thought we were set except for the acorn squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkins that I was going to build hills for outside the fence (we need the fence to protect the garden from deer and some large neighbor dogs).

Second, we placed some fertilized soil on top of seeds and around each plant when we planted them. The thought was to give them a kick start for early growth and strength. We shall see how this experiment works out.

Early morning sprinkler at work
The weather man had been cooperating nicely with no frost in the forecast and I put in the acorn squash yesterday afternoon, leaving us with peppers, strawberry blossoms, a few tomatoes and squash I had just planted as our frost sensitive plants. Then last night I checked the weather and the forecast which had been warm all the way to Mother’s Day had changed! In southwestern Michigan Mother’s Day had been our a safe date for planting so due to a busy schedule we had cheated a bit and now we were caught.

Fighting early morning frost
Returning to my earlier roots prior to my Air Force 30 year career, I woke at farmer time (0430) and checked the temp and yes it was 35 and going down and the sky was beautiful with stars and a bit of haze. Perfect conditions for frost as I pulled on the warm clothes and pulled out the hoses and set up the sprinkler system. If we had enough sheets to cover the garden I would have done that but we are now at about 150 feet by 100 feet – too big and the warmer water would protect against the threat! At 630 the temperature had dropped to 33.3 and I was certainly glad I could hear the sprinkler still spinning away! By 0800 we will be safe and hopefully the damage will be minimal if any.

Now for that coffee!

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