September 22nd – With the first day of autumn arriving tomorrow, September 22nd, the first frost of the year is not far away and can damage both your hanging baskets and your garden.
The Farmers’ Almanac predicted first frosts in four Washington cities by calculating the normal mean first frost date.
According to the almanac, the first frost will first hit Spokane on October 3. Olympia follows on October 6, and Vancouver is likely to get its first frost on October 15. Seattle is expected to get its first frost about a month later on 11/17.
These dates should bring a light frost between 29 and 32 degrees. This cold kills tender plants like cucumbers, squashes, and tomatoes, and has “little destructive effect” on other plants, according to the Almanac.
Moderate frosts between 25 and 28 degrees severely damage flowers, tender and semi-hardy plants and have a destructive effect on most plants. Severe frosts below 24 degrees harm most plants, the Almanac warns.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, an almanac that began in 1792 and is updated annually, predicted the first frost per city.
Here’s where the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts your first frost:
Olympics – October 6th.
Tacoma – November 7th.
Spokane – October 7th.
Ferndale – October 23.
How to protect your plants from frost
The Old Farmer’s Almanac also offers advice to protect your crops from frost damage and includes a list of each crop’s critical low temperatures at which frost will damage crops.
Carrots, peas and potato tubers have a critical temperature of 28-30 degrees, at which they are damaged by frost. Tomatoes, corn, sweet potatoes and watermelons have critical temperatures of 32 degrees and are considered tender plants.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac advises you to cover your garden with non-woven polyester row coverings or with bed sheets, drapes or medium-weight fabrics to protect against frost.
Local nurseries can also offer advice and resources to protect your plants from the cold. Paige Lanham, owner of Garden Spot Nursery in Bellingham, WA, says one of the best ways to protect your plants is with mulching.
“A 1-2″ deep donut ring of mulch or compost around plants, especially around those planted this year, can help protect them from the cold weather. This will protect them and nourish the soil around them… Planting in the ground will keep a plant warmer than planting in a pot, but having a plant in a pot can bring it into the garage or nearby come indoors during a cold snap,” Lanham wrote in an email to McClatchy.
Lanham also suggests wrapping a pot in bubble wrap to insulate it, and warns of the extra moisture that winter frosts and snow can bring:
“The wet soil in the PNW in winter can also be a killer, so make sure you’re planting in areas with good drainage and adding some compost while you’re planting can also help your plants survive,” Lanham wrote.
Here are some ways you can prevent frost from damaging your plants and yard from Homes and Gardens:
— Do not keep potted plants outdoors during the winter months.
— Insulate your plants and garden with extra mulch before temperatures get colder.
— Move your tender plants to a sheltered area.
— Water plants in the morning.
— Wrap larger plants and planters to keep them warm when you can’t put them inside.
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