Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Early frost, false frost, we're done gardening

Last week Tuesday around 9 p.m. I got a WeatherBug frost warning for Madison. Had I known earlier I could have gathered whatever blankets and sheets we didn't mind putting over the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, but we weren't prepared, it was late and the garden doesn't have lights in it. I went to sleep resigned with the end of the season yet hoping it was a false alarm.

At 6:30 the next morning I went to the garden. Most of my plants seemed fine. The beans definitely got touched by frost, but my tomatoes and peppers and eggplant were untouched. Our community pumpkin patch was, however, a different story. Leaves were slumped to the ground, revealing their unripened fruit. It was a disaster. Green pumpkins, unripe winter squash and lots of summer squash were all exposed, and attached to lifeless vines. I called Jay, depressed, upset and nearly in tears.

Our community pumpkin patch members had worked so hard, it was heart-wrenching to see all that work go to waste, cut short but a relatively early frost.  Our earliest frost potential IS Sept. 25, but we don't typically frost until early October, which would have given these plants a few more weeks to ripen the fruit on the vine.
Scene of destruction following the early frost.

That Friday I heard a freeze warning for Madison the following night. Jay and I were on our way out of town for a weekend at my parents' house - and I went into a bit of a panic. Again we weren't prepared with sheets or blankets, but it didn't matter, we weren't going be available to remove the blankets during the day for two days. I made the call to harvest everything - EVERYTHING.

We worked for a few hours pulling all our tomatoes - red, green and inbetween. We took all the tomatillos, ground cherries, and eggplant no matter the size. Finally, we picked all the peppers whether they had turned color or not.

We filled four boxes and several grocery bags with produce, put them in the trunk. A gardener friend of mine was picking produce and covering her plants. We walked over to Peg and took this silly self-portrait with my phone camera. The golden sun on our faces and pale blue gray sky was a fitting backdrop to this autumn ritual.

And the false frost? It turns out that it didn't freeze on Saturday night, but it did Sunday night, and to be honest, I'm not sure I had it in me to cover and uncover. 

Please write in the comments below your favorite ways to preserve green tomatoes - we've got a lot of them!

Jay, me and Peg in the garden before the next frost.

Spaghetti squash, pie pumpkins and three varieties of eggplant.

30# of green tomatoes and bell peppers.

A wide variety of roma tomatoes

A large box of jalapeno, cayenne and ancho peppers.

More green tomatoes.

A peck of peppers (before pickling)


  1. looks like it's too late for you this year, but in future years, here's a tip. pull the whole plant, leaving the tomatoes on the vine... they will continue to ripen. the vines still have some energy left in them which they'll transfer to the tomatoes. i did this one year with "long-keeper" variety and had fresh tomatoes into december! store the vines/tomatoes out of direct sunlight.

    p.s. this captcha is hard to pass... can you get an easier one?

  2. Last year, I made a green tomato chutney with my green tomatoes. It was amazing! I also pickled some in a standard vinegar/sugar/water brine. I don't have either of the recipes in front of me, but I found them by googling. I did also allow some of mine to ripen on the counter. They don't have as good of flavor as vine-ripened, but still better than store-bought ones in December. I ate my last group on Christmas last year! Good luck!