It’s a crisp, clear morning in October. Through the window, the emerging color of the maple tree across the street confirms that summer is gone for good. You open the sliding glass door to your patio and drink in the refreshingly chilly air.
Suddenly, your eyes snap into focus in front of you—what happened to the garden!? The tips of the tomato vines, still full of un-ripened fruit, are shriveled and grey. Most of your annual flowers also seem to have caught the disease.
Of course, it’s not a lethal pathogen that has decimated the entire patio garden in a single night—it’s the first frost of fall. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid, or at least delay, the effects of this annual event, though some advance planning is required.
Extend the length of the harvest season for a month or more with customized enclosures that fit like lids over your pots and plants. While many people get by with throwing plastic tarps and old bed sheets over their garden when a freeze warning goes into effect, here are a few ideas to help you do better than such hastily arranged eyesores.
|Cloches emerged during the Renaissance period to protect the favorite plants of French royalty, and they are still in style today. These large, bell-shaped glass or pottery lids have unbeatable rustic chic flair, and are perfect for protecting single specimens.|
|Cold frames are essentially a miniature greenhouse that fits over an individual bed. They take a fair bit of carpentry skill to build, but are a worthy weekend project for the resident handy-person. The idea is to install a reclaimed glass window roughly the same size as the bed on a wooden frame that extends above the plants. The frame should taper down on one side so the glass lid is angled in the direction of the winter sun (south). Attach the window to the wood frame with hinges, so it opens like a hatch to access the plants.|
|Installing several incandescent light bulbs inside a cold frame can double the degree of frost protection. Flip them on at night and the extra heat will keep things growing right through to spring. With a little hunting, you should be able to find something that suits the architecture of you custom enclosure. Just make sure any light fixtures you use are rated for outdoor installation.|