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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis


Posted by John Fulton -

We not only had a frost, but a hard freeze to boot this morning. My thermometer read 23 degrees this morning at about 6 am. There are some garden issues to address quickly due to the cold.

First off, I'm sure it got cold enough that no rhubarb should be used. The freezing, usually temperatures below about 27 degrees or so, will damage the cells in the leaves releasing a toxin into the stems. This makes the rhubarb toxic.

Other crops, especially vining crops, should have the stems cut quickly. This will prevent stems from rotting back into the vegetable. Pumpkins, squash, and cukes are all in this group. Sweet potatoes are especially sensitive, and after the freeze you have about a day to get the tops cut to keep the tubers from spoiling. The general rule for most garden items is to go ahead and cut off the top portions of plants for underground parts you want to keep. This doesn't mean you have to dig your turnips immediately, just cut the tops off.

Crops such as turnips and carrots can then be left in the ground until needed, or the weather really gets cold. Mulching with straw or grass clippings will add some insulation to the soil level in the area. This insulation will keep the temperatures more moderate. Many people consider this type of storage will actually "sweeten" the vegetables after a frost.

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