Garden 'to-do' list before first frost
When the weather pattern changes from monsoon to North Pacific cold fronts, we experience the first chill, winds bringing the end to summer gardens. This normally occurs by Halloween or shortly thereafter, but the end of October is a pretty reliable benchmark for expecting our first frost in Sedona.
We still may have summer veggies producing, annual herbs like basil and annual flowers. On the morning after the first frost or freezing wind chill, it's a sad sight to see tomato plants with blackened, droopy leaves and mushy fruit, peppers, beans and squash plants shriveled, and other plants suffering damage. If you have trees with the last of summer fruit, like late apples or pears, they, too, may be damaged.
When the first frost warning is issued for Sedona, it's a signal to harvest remaining veggies and bring them inside. Many tomatoes can ripen indoors. If green, they can be fried, made into chutney or pickled. Winter squashes including pumpkins last a long time, adding fall color to your décor. And, late apples, like golden delicious, are usually good keepers through the winter. It is possible to bring potted plants indoors, and you could also be successful transplanting and potting some of your cold-sensitive plants to extend their season.
All the leafy vegetables - as well as many root crops, biennials and herbs - are not much affected by frost, and many gardeners wait for frost on kale, collards and the cabbage family to enrich their flavor. Mixed salad greens, arugula, cilantro, parsley, baby beet, chard and cabbage leaves can provide delicious salads through the winter. If you haven't started your fall-winter garden by October, you can still purchase starts at a local garden center, sow lettuces by mid October and get them established before the first frost.
October is also a good time for planting bulbs for spring color. Garlic cloves should be planted late October through November for a May and June harvest. One can also sow seeds of some varieties of wildflowers, perennial flowers, delphiniums, penstamons and hollyhocks.
Bedding plants like snapdragons, pansies and dianthus are good to plant before the frost and provide color in late fall, green through the winter and flowers. If you are planting shrubs or bare root trees, October is a good time to allow them to get established through the winter enabling them to be more vigorous in the spring.
Finally, the coming cold weather and frost provide abundant material for compost, whether you make a pile or use it to mulch your garden. Save leaves and dead summer plants to provide nutrients and microorganisms for the soil. If possible, chop them up with a rotary mower to speed the decomposition process.
Gardens for Humanity has workshops to help with gardening in our unique environment.
Learn more about our programs at www.gardensforhumanity.org.