As we approach the weekend, there is a possibility of frost in the air. The first frost in northern Ohio though is around October 10th and conversely the last frost date is about May 30th or the traditional Decoration Day. Since the production of the vegetable garden and flower garden have declined due to the shorter days and less intense sun, it’s not necessarily a ‘bad thing’ to have a frost now. A “hard” frost is one in which temperatures will remain below freezing for several hours and finish off for sure any growing heat loving vegetable plants or flowers. With the arrival of a hard frost, tropical “bulbs” such as Cannas, Dahlias and Gladiolas may be cut off and stored in a cool, moist environment such as a cellar in order to overwinter.
At the nursery, it’s quite important to keep frost in early October off the evergreen azaleas as the still forming flowers inside the spring buds can be killed. The tender buds are susceptible to spring frosts as well when they are showing color or for sure fully open in their flower display. Sweet Potatoes are strange in that they must be dug immediately after a fall frost or the underground tubers don’t seem to store well. Other vegetables that fare well and continue to grow are greens like turnips, spinach, mustard greens, parsnips and kale until nighttime temperatures consistently fall into the 20’s. The benefits of a fall frost are that it tends to sharpen fall colors on trees and shrubs and is a signal to winter hardy plants to finally start shutting down and hardening off for winter. During the dormant season beginning in October, many trees and shrubs can be dug and stored although those in a pot or balled and burlapped already can be planted much earlier to take advantage of the cool weather for maximum root growth before the ground actually freezes.
At the nursery after the removal of the annual flowers in the beds on the grounds, at least 6,000 flower bulbs (mainly tulips) will be planted to dazzle the nursery visitors in spring. The same principal applies to these bulbs as it does to trees and shrubs planted in the fall – it’s all about root growth.
Enjoy October with many cool, sunny days and crisp nights that soon will give way to the dark, cold days of winter. I can’t wait.