Frost on the pumpkin and other produce

The common phrase frost on the pumpkin makes us think pumpkins are supposed to get frosted, but in reality it damages them and shortens their storage life. Harvest your pumpkins before a hard frost even if they havent colored up completely; theyll continue to turn orange after harvest. And if you display them on your porch until Halloween, cover them on frosty nights or bring them inside on really cold nights to keep them from freezing. Many plants tolerate frost nicely. Spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts actually improve in flavor after a frost and root crops such as carrots and beets can stay in the ground after their tops have died to sweeten up further. Some annual flowers are surprisingly frost tolerant including snapdragons, pansies, petunias and sweet alyssum. Geraniums are actually tender perennials in our region. There are a few ways to keep geraniums over winter. Some gardeners move their potted geraniums, still in the pots, to a dark section of their basements for the winter. Give them just a cup of water a month during this time. In early spring, cut the plant stems to four or six inches long, bring them upstairs into the light and water them well. This method isnt guaranteed to work, but many have had success with it so you might want to give it a try. Another way to carry geraniums through the winter is to take cuttings now, before frost damages the plant tissue, and root them indoors. These cuttings can then be grown on as houseplants during the winter and potted up or planted outdoors next spring. So dont despair, the garden season is really never over. It just changes location with the seasons. Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450 and Essex County at 962-4810. More information may be found on-line at ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu or by sending an e-mail to a Master Gardener volunteer at askMG@cornell.edu.

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