Do you know the difference between hoarfrost, black frost, white frost, glazed frost, ground frost, air frost, freezing fog, rime ice, and frozen dew? Did you know that the dewpoint is a factor contributing to whether or not you have frost on “iffy” nights? How many different strategies do you know for extending your growing season?
If you garden in a cold climate and you can’t answer all of the above questions, you’ll want to read A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons. I know I learned quite a few things, including that British and American gardeners call various types of frost by different names.
Philip Harnden has written a thorough treatise on the subject. He starts out, quite appropriately, with getting to know your location and climate. This is basic stuff, but it’s well to review it, because the type of soil and the amount of precipitation you can expect affects the hardiness of your plants. He points out that there’s a difference between one’s usual frost date and one’s average frost date, a distinction that’s lost on many novice gardeners. Number of frost-free days, hardiness zones, and microclimates: if you’ve been gardening up north for more than a year, you probably know about all three–but that’s just the first chapter.
Then the author gets into the real meat of the book: what exactly is frost? Harnden talks about how it is formed, how it damages plants, and how latent heat and air moisture affect its occurence and duration. He kicks it up a notch and applies that information to the planning of the garden itself, covering aspect, exposure, heat reservoirs and air drainage, among other things. Next, he gives you the information and tools needed to become a better predicter of when frost will hit your garden. Finally, the last two chapters are devoted to extending the season, either temporarily, or well into the winter.
To his credit, Harnden never presents frost as The Enemy:
. . . We gardeners needn’t have a siege mentality toward frost. It’s not a villain, holding us hostage in some pitifully short growing season. Jack Frost is simply one more character in this dazzling, sometimes perplexing, and wonderfully rewarding practice we call gardening.
Okay, so it’s not the enemy, but if you’ve spent a whole summer nursing your tomatoes along, only to have them blacken with frost before harvest, you’ll agree it can be frustrating. A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons will give you the understanding you need to make gardening a more gratifying experience.
For your convenience, this book and many others are available through my Amazon store.