You may have seen the alert on your phone yesterday - we got a freeze! Here at the farm we're always checking the weather, but never more closely when the cold temperatures are moving in! As you might imagine, freezing temperatures and vegetables plants aren't the best of friends unfortunately (with a few fun exceptions which we'll explore later).
So considering it looked pretty frosty outside this morning you might wonder, what's the difference between a frost warning and a freeze warning? Well, while I understand the basic idea of both, I actually needed to do some googling to glean the full picture.
When we're talking about frost, that means the forecasted minimum temperature will be between 33 and 36 degrees F during the growing season. This has the potential to damage plants, especially summer ones like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, but most things will survive.
However, a freeze means that significant and widespread freezing temperatures are expected. A freeze has a much higher chance of killing your veggie plants. It also means that farms have to drain water lines so no pipes freeze! Since our barn is uninsulated, the water pipes we rely on to wash all our veggies are unprotected and will burst without proper draining before a freeze!
So, with a freeze looking probable for Wednesday night, Farmer Mike spent Tuesday and Wednesday rushing around draining all the pipes and irrigation water lines. We moved our big industrial washer into the office (which is insulated and heated) so that none of its' numerous pipes and tubes would break overnight.
We also had to move our 5 pallets of winter squash to a more protected location. While winter squash are pretty durable and resilient, even they don't like being frozen! Therefore, our office is now full of stacks and stacks of winter squash so we can keep providing them to our CSA all winter long!
Now, as I alluded to earlier, some vegetables actually aren't bothered by a freeze. And a few are actually improved by it, amazing! Carrots for example will get sweeter after a freeze, so farmers will often leave them in the ground deliberately to get this result. Kale, cabbage, collards, and other members of this brassica family will also be fine after a freeze. These hardy plants are what we rely on in the late fall and throughout the winter to provide us with nutritious and delicious food despite the cold!
Looking at the history of freeze dates in our area, it seems like we are right around the mean this year with respect to the past 20 years. Early freezes are really tough and can shorten the season in a dramatic way. We were lucky to keep picking peppers up until last week when we decided it was time to move on. But sometimes an early frost will make that decision for you.
CSA members - look forward to some freeze-sweetened carrots and brussels sprouts coming your way soon! And since we're talking about cold weather, it's time to join our Winter CSA! We grow all through the winter, mainly in our high tunnels which keep lots of greens and roots safe from the cold. We can't wait to provide fresh, local veggies to you, December through April! Check out our website and blog for more info!
Thanks for reading!