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Preparing for a change in season

Preparing for a change in season


The weather this week has been quite unusual. When we get temperatures this low we begin to think about fall and what we need to do with our gardens. There are ways to extend the season if you would like to do that, otherwise, cleaning up your garden is best when it has finished producing.

September 8th is very early for such cold weather. Parts of northern Nebraska had a frost this week and we were very close to that. Due to this early onset of more typical fall weather, we might see an early frost this year. Typically for southeast Nebraska, the first frost date is October 6-16. This is just an average and it can happen sooner, however this early for a frost would be very rare.

Row Covers

Row covers are a way to extend the growing season through a light frost. Row covers are made of a light, spun fabric that you can see through. The row covers just sit on top of the plants to add a slight level of protection against freezing temperatures. The material is lightweight so it does not damage the plants as it rests on them. The typical row covers give you 2-8 degrees of protection from frost situation. For example, if the plant can withstand 32 degrees without a row cover, it can remain alive and growing through temperatures as low as 24 degrees with the row cover.

*This information came from John Porter, Nebraska Extension Educator.

Cold frames

A cold frame is described by Missouri Extension as “a protected plant bed with no artificial heat added”. This is a good way to keep plants protected a little longer into the fall. Build a box frame out of lumber with a glass or plexiglass cover. This box is then placed over plants to increase the temperature and avoid damaging frosts. A Cold frame is a good way to recycle old windows or doors. The frame can even be made as simply as using hay bales for the sides and a window in the center. A cold frame can also be used in the spring to harden off any plants that you grow from seed indoors or to get an early start on cool season crops.

Garden Cleanup

When you have finished harvesting from your garden or when it quits producing, you need to clean up the garden space for winter. If any of your plants had disease or insect issues this summer, it is best to remove those plants and destroy them, don’t compost them. This will reduce the chance of seeing the problem again next year.

Also, removing the plants from the garden at the end of the season will remove the overwintering site for insects found in the garden. Cleaning tomato cages and fences upon removal will also help remove the disease spores from the garden for next year.

After removing the plants, you may want to till your garden. If you plan to add fresh manure to your garden, that should be done in the fall when you till your garden. After tilling this fall, be sure to add a layer of mulch to the garden to keep the soil from blowing off site during the winter. Grass clippings without any type of herbicides on them would be a good mulch for the winter because you can till that right into the soil next spring before planting again.

If you have any further questions please contact Nicole Stoner at (402) 223-1384,, visit the Gage County Extension website at, or like my facebook page at and follow me on twitter @Nikki_Stoner


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