Published on 10/09/00

Some Garden Veggies Can Take the Cold

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Photo: Wayne McLaurin

Tender vegetables like peppers can be damaged by the first light frost. But with extra protection for a day or two, they may go on bearing for weeks.

If the early-October frost didn't freeze your beans off, you may have many more days before the vegetable garden shuts down.

Vegetables can be harvested as they mature. Many vegetable crops can go on producing long after the first light frost. It's usually mid- to late November in most areas of Georgia before a frost that will freeze tender vegetation arrives.

Many vegetables will have been producing vigorously for two to four weeks before this date. However, it may be possible to harvest them even longer.

Often, a few nights of low temperatures will be followed by warmer weather for several weeks in the fall. If you can protect tender vegetation during these few cold nights, you can continue harvesting vegetables.

Save Tender Vegetables

Some gardeners try to gain more days of growing time by covering plants with baskets, blankets or plastic at the first frost warning.

You need not cover your whole garden. Focus on only the tender vegetables that will be easily damaged by a slight frost, such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, beans and sweet potatoes.

Stretch temporary coverings of polyethylene plastic, blankets or tarpaulins over the rows to provide frost protection. A small light bulb burning underneath such coverings can provide protection to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Anchor coverings so they won't damage garden crops if a sudden wind develops. As little foliage as possible should come in contact with the surface of the covering, because that foliage will freeze fast.

When to Harvest
Tender Damaged by the first light frost. Beans, cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes.
Semihardy Can stand a light frost. Swiss chard, beets, Chinese cabbage, collards, Irish potatoes, Bibb lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, leaf lettuce.
Hardy Can stand several frosts; use before 20-degrees low. Collards, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, kale.

After the danger of frost has passed, remove the coverings. Be prepared to put them on again if a sudden frost is forecast later.

Harvest semihardy vegetables if temperatures in the mid- to upper 20s are forecast. Pick hardy vegetables if temperatures in the low 20s seem imminent.

Root crops such as beets, carrots, potatoes and turnips may be mulched and used as needed. If the soil begins to freeze, they will need be harvested.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.