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Frost advisories for much of central Alberta: what needs to come out of the garden?

WATCH ABOVE: Jesse Beyer has your long-range weather forecast.

EDMONTON — It was a cool day Tuesday and the chilly weather is expected to continue. Temperatures for many Alberta communities may hover around, or even below, the freezing mark in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“A combination of a cooler air moving in, with a light wind and clear skies is the perfect set up for frost,” Global Edmonton’s chief meteorologist Jesse Beyer explained.

“Low lying areas within the City of Edmonton and outlying communities in rural central Alberta have the greatest risk of frost this evening,” Beyer said.

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Frost advisories were issued by Environment Canada Tuesday afternoon and cover much of central and east central Alberta. Those advisories are issued for communities expected to experience early season frost that could damage crops and gardens.

“It’s that time of year and frost is going to keep happening. Once we’re out of the growing season, the advisories will not be issued,” Beyer said.

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But there are a few garden vegetables that can weather the cold. Here’s a basic list of what would be good to harvest Tuesday night, and what can hold on for a couple more weeks.

Tomatoes, peppers, peas, corn and gourds can be damaged by a light frost.
Tomatoes, peppers, peas, corn and gourds can be damaged by a light frost.

Beans and peas –  Ripe or not, beans and peas do not do well with frost. If you expect a frost cover overnight – harvest these and enjoy.

Corn – Mature corn will not do well with a frost, and should be harvested immediately. Immature cobs can be left on the stalk with hopes for another week of growth – but a good freeze will shorten their shelf life by three or four days.

Tomatoes and peppers – Ripe tomatoes or peppers should be harvested immediately. If you have un-ripened ones on the vine, and the forecast calls for temperatures right around 0°C, you can take a gamble. Try placing your plants along the south side of your home and covering them with a blanket. If the forecast calls for -2°C or colder, you are better off harvesting the un-ripened goods and letting them ripen inside.

Gourds – Mature gourds with a thick skin should be harvested immediately. Eat your cucumbers right away. Cure your pumpkins, squashes and zucchinis in a cold, dark room on a non-metal or non-concrete surface – this will make them last longer. Immature pumpkins or squashes will not ripen off the vine – so you’ll want to leave them out until their skins are quite hard. Hope for the best by covering them with a blanket on those cold nights, and be careful to not crush the vine.

Several vegetables can weather a light frost.
Several vegetables can weather a light frost.

Apples – Many types of apples can stay on the tree until the end of September (assuming we don’t see a significant late-September snowstorm). A light frost can actually make the fruit more sweet and flavourful.

Root vegetables – Vegetables like beets, carrots, onions and potatoes can stay underground until the soil around them starts to freeze. A light frost would be no problem, but any kind of frost that would freeze the ground around them would damage the goods.

Lettuce and salad greens – A light frost will change the texture of these items, and they should be harvested to avoid freezing. But if we see a few more nice weeks, the base of the plant could still grow. If you’re optimistic – try cutting away the usable greens and holding out to see if you can get another growth before the end of the season.

Kale, cabbage and chard – These hearty vegetables do well under a light frost. Their colours can become more vibrant and their taste more robust. But no garden plant will survive a deep freeze. If you think temperatures will drop significantly below 0°C overnight, your best bet would be to harvest them and bring them inside.