First Frost

By Alex Tisthammer

Brrr! As the mornings get chillier and the leaves start to turn colors we all know what is in store for us soon. Some morning in the next few weeks we will wake to frosty grass blades and frozen tomatoes. There are a few things we can do to make this transition a little smoother for our gardens and say goodbye to the dog days of summer. 

First things first, it’s time to give your garden a good watering before the first frost. The roots should be hydrated when we get freezing temperatures to prevent stress and winter dieback, especially newly planted plants. Next, mulch your perennials and shrubs. It is very helpful to keep the roots warm as well as keeping in moisture, so do this for any plants that are more tender or need more moisture. Perennial hibiscus, meadowsweet and hydrangeas are particularly susceptible plants that will benefit from mulch. You can use fallen leaves or straw to do this; however, do not use cottonwood leaves unless they are shredded (cottonwoods’ waxy, large leaves can create a suffocating mat and cause plants to rot). Don’t worry about cutting your perennials and shrubs back before everything goes dormant—the remaining debris acts as a natural mulch protecting the root crown.

Luckily one thing you don’t need to worry about are your cool season crops. They can handle cooler temperatures and some vegetables, like kale, taste sweeter after a light frost.

Eliminating food waste is something we should all strive for, and picking all your unripe tomatoes is a great way to do so! Stefanie D. of Fort Collins Nursery has a great recipe for using them throughout the winter months. Harvest all your green tomatoes, cut them into halves and lay on a large baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Cook at 350 degrees F for an hour and voila! You have a delicious green tomato sauce perfect for enchiladas or used as a tomatillo-esque salsa on tacos. It can even be used in apple pies or as a pasta sauce. You can get creative with the spices and choose whatever fits the dish best. Balsamic vinegar can also be drizzled on them with the olive oil before baking to give it a sweeter taste. Freeze in Ziploc bags and store it in the freezer for whenever you need a delicious, tangy sauce. 

This is also the time to be thinking about bulbs! Even though you don’t have to do this before the first frost, now is the time to buy and start planting all the fall bulbs and garlic for next year. Plant tulips, daffodils and crocus for some early spring color when the rest of your yard is still asleep. 

As the days are getting shorter, another growing season is coming to a close. Time for a few months of rest and dreaming about the possibilities of the next growing season.

Originally published on September 30th, 2021.