Well, the colder temperatures came right on time – our average first frost is Oct. 15 and for what ever reasons seems to always come on the weekend at the end of the second full week of October. There are a lot of factors that go into how damaging a hard frost (34 degrees) is to a vegetable. All of our fall and winter crops can handle a hard frost without any problem except for fennel (which we harvested on Saturday ahead of the coldest nights) and some lettuce (which we have covered and will probably remain covered from here on out).
Summer crops, on the other hand, are all frost-sensitive, which means they will be damaged or killed by a frost. The only summer crops that we still had in the ground as of Friday night were eggplant, peppers, green beans, and lima beans (which I was particularly hopeful might survive as they have only just really begun producing but are absolutely loaded with filling pods). None of the peppers survived. They are very frost sensitive, and particularly so with really dry frosts like the one that we just had. We harvested all green bell and green hot peppers on Friday afternoon.
The “younger” eggplant plantings appear to have survived. The Asian eggplant look much better than the Italian eggplant (the Italian eggplant were almost done producing anyways), although the flowers on the Rosita eggplant (Italian globe shape and fuchsia in color) seem to be perfectly fine, which implies it could continue to produce.
The green beans (Maxibel variety) look pitiful, most of the leaves are entirely burnt by frost; however, I was pleasantly surprised that all the larger pods closer to the base of the plants all appear perfectly okay. There are two reasons for this: Maxibel is a floppy plant, meaning that the tops of the plant actually protected the bottoms of the plant from frost, and two, Maxibel tends to set its pods very low. If the pods had been closer to the top, they would have been unsalvageable.
The lima beans, a very old variety that has really intrigued me throughout the season, are apparently not crazy to set there beans in October because (YES!) they are apparently frost-resistant. Although there is a noticeable darkening of the leaves, the plants and pods seem just fine, which is exciting. I don’t know that they will have time to go to seed before really cold weather sets in, but I do have some more seed that I could plant next season. I would really like to plant them in larger quantity.
This week’s share (given what I shared above): Large sweet potatoes and fingerling sweet potatoes, small garlic bulbs (the ones that were too small for planting), fennel (last of season), choice of green (kale or chard), arugula, mesclun mix, lettuce, beets with greens, green stuffing peppers (large peppers that should have been red…I really like the variety but it obviously isn’t meant for our climate…waits until shorter, cooler days to set fruit and thus does not have near enough time to ripen…but a very pretty green pepper), hot peppers (jalapenos in share but I will also have poblanos, Anaheims, and seranos for those who want…last chance), eggplant, and choice of herb. Green beans for Sustaining members.
Next week we should have carrots, green cabbage, and some very rare winter squash.
What’s going on on the farm? We have almost finished planting all of our garlic. We are waiting on one new Italian variety that shipped yesterday. We have planted a lot of cover crops, all of which have germinated very nicely, and we have started harvesting winter storage crops. I really like this time of year. I have realized that more this season than any other. It is something about the big blue open October sky (the only “big sky” we get here in these hills) that makes my fears and failures and doubts and problems about this past season (one of my flaws…) and this farm and this project just melt away. All of a sudden I gain perspective on all the amazing and wonderful things that we accomplished this season and how really transformative these six seasons have been on this piece of land, on us, and on the people like you who have been involved in our farm. It also makes me hopeful about next season (that has to be purposeful!) and ready to start planning, and adjusting, and trying new varieties and new ways of doing things…after a little change of pace!