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A Pollination Moment
from Pollinator Paradise Farmer's Market E-mail reminders

First Frost?

We've really been blessed to not have a frost yet this season, though we came rather close earlier this week.  Apparently the average frost date for Parma is Sept. 25.  So, we are over a week behind schedule.

It's rather amazing, when you think about it, that frosts occur at such a discrete temperature.  It's not a gradual thing.  If the plant temperature drops to 33F, it looks just fine the next day.  If it drops below 32F, it turns brown and dies.  Such a tiny difference in temperature makes all the difference to the plant's survival, at least for the warm weather plants like tomatoes, squash, eggplants, cucumbers, melons and peppers.

Many insect species also disappear with first frost, or at least with the first hard frost that penetrates into the soil surface.  Those pesky yellowjackets, for example - a good frost kills this year's workers and males.  Next year's queens, however, survive.  They are mated by now, and searching for a place to spend the winter. The same is true for bumblebees. The pollinating digger bees and other solitary bees are also killed by a hard frost; but they are survived in their nests in the ground or in twigs by larvae or adults that are next season's pollinators.

Not only does frost end the garden season, but this is the time of year that the irrigation canals are drained.  For many growers, that is the end of the season, since they can't get more water on the fields until spring.  This year Black Canyon Irrigation District water is supposed to end Oct. 10-15. Most of our garden can be irrigated with well water, however, if we need it.

The point is, this is probably the last week to buy fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, summer squash, etc. at the Farmer's market. Supplies, if they exist, will be tight for the rest of the market, which continues to the end of October.  Some of our vendors have already stopped coming for the season.  So, if you've been postponing buying squash for zucchini bread, or making that big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce, better get out to the market this weekend, and come early!

The lettuce, spinach, broccoli, carrots, beets, perennial herbs will continue to grow, though somewhat slower as the temperature and day length decrease.  I don't know about you, but by this time in the season I'm usually tired enough to welcome the frost, since it means less intensive work in the garden.  Or maybe not for us, since we have been planting our winter greens and preparing to build a hoop house to keep them going during the winter. If you haven't signed up to be on our customer list for fresh greens after the Farmer's Market ends, stop by our booth or send an e-mail soon so we can include you.

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October 5, 2002
Copyright 2002, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.