Killing Frost

We arrived home late from an evening spent with friends on Thursday, October 27 to the realization that several plants and crops would be spoiled or dead by the morning if we did not act fast. So it was in a panic that we bundled up and headed outside with flashlights and bowls to collect as many of the remaining green tomatoes as we could manage, along with pots of tender perennials that were meant to be overwintered inside. I’m so grateful that we got home when we did because some of the most exposed plants were already covered in frost and others were slightly frozen!

The kitchen was a disaster for days afterward. Every large bowl in the house was filled to overflowing! The basement and fridge doors along with the coffee machine were inaccessible. Guess which hurdle was tackled first?

Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’)

I am slowly managing to get the chaos under control. Most of the potted plants have been settled into their winter locations. I sorted the tomatoes by size and ripeness while watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and retired them to the basement for safe, short term keeping. On Saturday I pickled jars of cherry green tomatoes that will be used as garnishes for Bloody Marys next summer, (the recipe for my homegrown, home-made version of this classic cocktail is in my forthcoming book) and experimented with a few jars of pickled ripe currant tomatoes flavoured with fresh tarragon (also harvested from the garden in heaps) rather than dill.

There is still much left to do. The lemongrass is sat in a bucket waiting to be dried or chopped and frozen. The kitchen and dining room tables are makeshift holding centres for bowls of seed that need to be packaged up and green beans whose fate remain undetermined.

Silver Sage (Salvia argentea)

Last week marked our first year here. The quantity of bounty that has been banked from such a small, urban backyard (especially given that there was pretty much no garden as recently as May) is almost hard to believe. I may be overwhelmed with food to put up, but I am proud of the little garden Davin and I have built together and feel very fortunate to have it. A year ago I was disassembling the roof garden and worrying my hands about what would come next. Now that I know, I can’t say that I miss my old garden space one bit.

Here’s a photo (with notes) of the backyard as it looked at the end of the day on Friday.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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9 thoughts on “Killing Frost

  1. Hi, I just planted a Lemongrass. Can that not stay out over winter? Can it stay out, but just chop back the leaves? I also just got a Lamb’s Ear. I never got around to planting it. should I bring it inside? What about Russian Sage? AAAHHHHHhhhhh!

  2. Katherine: Hard to give you advice without knowing what your climate is like. However,Lemongrass needs a tropical climate. It will not survive a real winter. Lamb’s Ear and Russian Sage are both quite hardy.

  3. Ciao Gayla-

    Sounds like your house is looking very much like mine. My benchmark for being done with the garden is the end of the Royal Fair, but frost arrived earlier than I anticipated, so now my plate is very full. I’m actually looking forward to a couple months breather. I’m pretty tired.

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