All New Square Foot Gardening

drainage. Surprisingly, this will happen even where there is not a great difference in elevation. Once you get the knack of watching out for frost and covering your plants when it threatens, you will see the advantages of locating a garden on the top or south side of a slope rather than at the bottom of a low area. You will also see the advantage of grouping your crops according to their weather requirements. This makes it easier to protect them from either frost or freezing in both the spring and fall. One of the greatest advantages of SFG is how easy it is to protect your garden since it is condensed into small, uniform areas.

Its much simpler and more cost effective to grow cool-weather crops for an extended season using a sun-heated box that protects plants from just the severe weather fluctuations.

Frost

Frost forms when the outdoor temperature drops below the freezing point, resulting in the deposit of ice crystals. Plant material will freeze when there is an accumulation of cold air, 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below (0 degrees Celsius), at ground level. Frost can, and does, occur in low areas while the hills and slopes right next to them might be frost-free. This is because hot air rises and cold air sinks. If a body of water is nearby, it can greatly reduce the occurrence of frost as water holds heat very well.

In general, frost usually occurs in the very early morning hours, particularly after a still, calm night when the weather is dry. The chances of frost are also increased following the passage of a cold front, indicated by an intermittent and changing weather pattern of broken clouds and occasional precipitation; this is in contrast to the steady or continuous rain and the heavy, low-hanging clouds that accompany a warm front.

When frost is predicted, be ready. Your best bet is to catch the evening weather forecast, particularly the local one. Another (perhaps better) source is the Internet. One of the best websites is www.weather.com. Click on "Home and Garden," then "Lawn and Garden" and enter your zip code. You'll get all the information you need to be ready for that first frost.

Light Versus Hard Frost

A light frost blackens the outer leaves of most summer flowers and vegetables. It is indicated by a white covering on the lawn in very early morning. Summer vegetables can still be harvested if eaten right away.

A hard frost will blacken and kill all summer flowers and vegetables. Plants that were bushy and colorful the day before are

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now just droopy skeletons with blackened leaves hanging like rags from the stems. This can be very disheartening for gardeners who come out in the morning to find that the garden has been devastated. A hard frost is indicated by a crunchy feel to the ground and a thin film of ice on the birdbath. This is the time when most gardeners declare an end to the season. But if you have planted some colorful fall-blooming plants (mums, asters, and some hardy daisies) along with the fall vegetables, and you clean up the garden right away, your garden will still look attractive and inviting after a hard frost. Your spirits will be lifted and you can go on to enjoy an autumn garden.

Winter

Gardeners who are particularly ambitious and want to continue growing something all winter will need additional tools for providing special protection to a very select variety of plants. If you can keep the ground from freezing solid and provide sunlight in just a small area, in many parts of the country you can continue growing special varieties of lettuce and spinach, hardy leaf crops such as kale, and a number of oriental vegetables all winter long. Its also possible to plant some members of the onion family in the fall in order to get a larger or early crop next spring and summer. Call your county extension service for local advice and conditions.

As you continue gardening, you 11 learn which vegetables are hardier in your particular area. Wind and rain have a lot to do with plant survival and how much protection you need to provide.

Special Cold Varieties

Salad from your garden during the coldest months of winter? You bet. A fall box (that's just a SFG box that's used during the fall) can provide fresh salad each week during the winter without a greenhouse. Here's how: select fast-growing vegetables for your winter garden. Try any of the hardy salad greens and root crops, but look for special cold-tolerant varieties. Every seed company offers different varieties so look through catalogs and select those that are recommended for cold and winter growing. Look for names that have words in them like "Arctic/' "Frost King,'' or "Snow Man" (I just made that last one up).

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