Gardener’s Guide to Frost


  “When everything that ticked has stopped,
And space stares, all around,
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns,
Repeal the beating ground.”
–   Emily Dickinson


I had scheduled this book review months ago.  I thought that exploring frost in September before it happens in October (our usual first frost) would be very timely.  Who would have thought we would have our first frost this year a full month early (last week)…of course this just goes along with the crazy weather we have been having all year so I guess I am not surprised at all.IMG_0578

I have always found frost beautiful especially in fall.  Although I know little about it, I just love seeing it from fall through winter where it is especially beautiful and on into spring.  Truth be told, I hope for frost to be gone in spring by the time May rolls around so I can plant my veg garden.  This past year we had little frost, but it was a chilly in May and June delaying the veg garden.

I forget where I first saw this book, but I was intrigued by the table of contents and the pictures.  And it is written by someone who lives North of me in New York State on the Canadian border.  I hope you enjoy my pictures of frost as I review this lovely instructional book for Holley’s Garden Book Review which usually happens on the 20th.


A Gardener’s Guide to Frost:Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons


Author:  Harnden, Phillip
Paperback:   128 pages
Publisher:   Willow Creek Pr; First Edition edition
 (February 1, 2003)
Amazon Price: $17.59





In A Few Words

This book is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of frost in both spring and fall.  And what gardener wouldn’t want to learn how to plant earlier in spring and extend the season well into fall without the fear of frost.  Within the book you are given a beginners look into determining your climate, understanding frost, planning a frost-ready garden, forecasting frost, fending off frost and gardening past frost.IMG_9456

For purposes of the book, frost is defined as freezing, and the garden discussed is the kitchen garden as it is the most susceptible to frost, and veg gardeners are always trying to outwit frost and keep the growing season going.  The author takes you through determining your particular climate; (begin and end frost days, frost-free days and microclimates within your garden); different types of frost and how frost forms;  how humidity, fog and water affect frost; and even making your own frost forecast using humidity, dew points and the phases of the moon.



What I Liked

I found the book very informative although a bit technical, but not too much so.  And along with the information are some splendid frost pictures.

IMG_9513What I found particularly interesting was the section on how frost forms.  I did not realize that it moves downhill which makes sense in a way.  I also found interesting the fact that frost causes a plant to be dehydrated which is why there is damage especially to plants not fully hydrated.  Of course there are many kinds of frost that cause the water within the cells to rupture dooming the plant.  And who knew that a fall frost is far less worrisome than a spring frost because the ground is warmer and the plants can recover better than in the colder spring.

I also really liked the idea of forecasting frost although it is a bit technical.  I think with time I could become quite adept at it though.  One very interesting fact is that frost is quite likely to occur a week before a full moon.  And that is precisely when we just had our first frost.

Quite possibly the most important chapter is the one that teaches techniques on how to garden with frost.  Some plants like Brussel sprouts requireIMG_0527 frost to enhance their flavor, and simple techniques like row covers, cold frames and knowing which plants will tolerate frost can make the garden grow well into fall and winter in some areas.



Not So Much

For those who do not have to worry about frost, who have no desire to forecast frost or who do not veg garden you may not find this book useful.  But it is still very interesting for those who enjoy weather and gardening.  I am not sure the book would translate to other countries, but the science behind frost and the ways to fend it off are universal.



Final Thoughts

I knew I was going to love this book because it combines useful gardening information with important weather and climate IMG_9606information in a easy to understand way.   And if nothing else this book reminds us that frost is a signal for us to slow down.  To move slowly in spring, and to begin to slow in fall.  The author emphasizes that the most successful gardeners are those who notice things.  Frost gives us the opportunity to slow down, look at the garden and notice the natural rhythms.  And if you have ever looked closely at frost, it is a beautiful world where you are transported to a wonderland of ice.



“Listen …IMG_1130
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break free from the trees
And fall.”

Adelaide Crapsey, 1878-1914, November Night




Next up on the blog:  Next Monday I will showcase another special wildflower.  And then it will be time for another monthly wrap up in my Gardens Eye Journal post the first Monday in October.

I am guest blogging over at Vision and Verb Tuesday the 24th.  I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

74 Replies to “Gardener’s Guide to Frost”

  1. Interesting about the relationship between frost and the moon, I didn’t know that. I can hardly believe that you’ve had a frost already, ouch!

  2. Frost and snow brings another kind of beauty to nature. I just love seeing that beauty though I have to tell you that I get very depressed as I can’t do much gardening. Hopefully, I will be able to do lots of gardening as I am growing frost-hardy vegetables under row cover and in greenhouse (well, actually trying to).

    1. I agree that it is beautiful but winter keeps us from gardening. I hope you have lots of gardening even in the winter. I will garden under grow lights a bit until I build a cold frame.

    1. I am not sure I read the review Kathy, but I bet I saw it on your sidebar….thanks for reminding me as I hate to not give credit to fellow bloggers. I will have to check out your review.

      I agree it is a must read for cold climate gardeners who have to garden with frost!!

  3. This was really great information Donna. I was always taught to water and then cover my plants before a frost and never really thought about why. Now I understand the dehydration part. We usually don’t have a hard frost–ever–in the Pacific Northwest, but things have been changing in these times of ‘global weirding.’

    1. Susie I love that term ‘global weirding’….I never quite understood why we should hydrate the plants before a frost either. it was great to find out why.

  4. I’m impressed to see a book written on this subject and found your review enlightening and interesting Donna.
    I’ll have to look for it myself to read as we’ve already had a frost too.

  5. Very interesting! I’ve never seen a book on frost, but I can see how it would be helpful for those living in cold areas. We have a short winter here and usually get the first frost around the end of Nov or first of Dec. I do have some tender plants that I cover if frost is predicted and the ones in pots I bring to protected areas. I really need to get over my zone denial!

    1. I can totally understand zone denial Dorothy especially when I read about others who garden almost all year and have flowers and veggies for months longer!

  6. Frost in September? You poor thing! I hope we get another month respite before the nights get too cold. We frequently get permafrost – many plants suffer then from drought and we nearly lost all our laurel a couple of winters ago; ours recovered but many people lost evergreen shrubs. I do love to see the frost on plants though!

  7. I can’t believe you’ve had frost already! And we are just now getting below 100 during the day. But, I know that frost will come to us here eventually, and just like any gardener, we will be looking for ways to protect our growing veggies from a killing frost. I had no idea that the moon could affect frost! Sounds like a great book, and one I’ll put on my wish list. Thanks so much for joining in! PS: Your link is not showing up in my blog post yet, so be sure to add it. 🙂

    1. Into the 30s yet again tonight. I was having trouble inking in as the linky widget wasn’t showing but I just finally linked in. Glad you enjoyed the review and thanks for hosting!!!

  8. So it’s unusual for you to have a frost this early? Maybe things will settle back down for a bit and give you a reprieve. I do love the patterns of frost on plants, but hope for many more warm days and nights before seeing any. Take care. Susie

    1. Our usual first frost date is usually mid-October. I am hoping for warmer weather too, but now we are getting temps in the 30s again tonight. It will warm again though which makes fall fun!

  9. I haven’t had a chance to look this up, but I think it has been a very cold September. I keep my office thermostat set at the same temperature all year, and the heat never comes on until later in October. This year it has been coming on for about two weeks. With nighttime temperatures in the mid 40s I am not surprised. I am usually wanting the weather to cool so customers will start shopping. This year I want it to warm up so people don’t think the fall planting season is over.

  10. I am keeping my fingers crossed that our first frost is a longer ways away then yours…but you never know. Last year it was Mid October, and not even a killing frost, this year I think earlier.

    This is the book for me to read!

    Great review, and I like that you added in some facts already. I’m chomping at the bit to find a copy.


  11. I agree–frost is lovely when viewed close-up. I didn’t know frost is most likely to occur a week before a full moon. I wonder why? I tried to look up more information about it, but I couldn’t find it. The book looks visually beautiful, too. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. It has to do with the moon and tides Beth. According to the book, the new and full moon make the highest tides in the atmosphere and frost occurs under high pressure areas…and a high pressure area acts like a tidal bulge in the atmosphere.

      Interesting isn’t it!!

  12. Down in the part of USA where I live, frost is quite ‘unknown’….and our growing season is early….Tomatoes are setting on by the end of March and we have ripe tomatoes on the vine by May.

    But I too think frost is beautiful!!

    1. Anni I would love to visit your part of the country during the early growing season…imagine tomatoes on the vine in May when I am planting my tender seedlings.

  13. Donna – We have had temperatures in the low 30’s but no frost yet – although my neighbors have. We live in a great spot – halfway down a southern sloping hill with lots of breeze. The frost blows right down to my neighbor’s garden. I remember a long time ago watching a neighbor out madly watering his vegetable at dawn (I was on my way to work) after frost. Somwhow watering the frosty plants before the sun melted the frost saved them from some damage. I don’t really know why.

    1. Yes you are in a perfect spot up from the low level so the frost blows down…I had not heard about the watering right before dawn though but it makes sense as you want to hydrate the plants as much as you can.

  14. I always find the first frost kind of exciting
    in the Fall…..would be a little disappointed if
    it happened so soon, though. It’s still growing
    strong here, the season. Hope you didn’t lose
    anything. I’d never thought about how the frost
    dehydrates a plant but it makes total sense
    and I’m grateful to read it all spelled out like you
    did…..thank you.
    Hope this is the most beautiful
    Autumn you’ve ever known
    in every possible way,

    1. Jennifer it can be a bit sad to see the frost come so soon. Somehow my cukes are still going strong and they are uncovered. Plants can be so hardy and resilient.

  15. Thanks for sharing the book review. The frost photos are lovely. We have not had a frost yet, but the early morning temps are colder. Have a happy week!

  16. Thank you Donna! I love this: “…the most successful gardeners are those who notice things”. How true!
    I can’t believe you’ve already had your first frost! It is still warm here in the PNW.

  17. Am a bit of a weatherophile (!) so found your review interesting. Rime on foliage and seedheads is one of the joys of the winter garden but Jack Frost does not venture this far into our city

  18. The subject is of interest even in my relatively warm climate. Since our frosts appear somewhat randomly and can be particularly hard on unprepared plants I have learned to pay attention to the weather warnings.

    We learned about the frost sinking downhill by experience. We live at the bottom of a hill and certain plants in my yard will freeze while the same one in the neighbor’s yard does not. Quite noticeable in our relatively light freezes.

  19. I wasn’t aware of the book but it does sound interesting. I’d be especially keen to read the bits about the science of frost.

  20. I would not have thought that frost would have merited a whole book of information, but as I read through your post I can see that there is a lot more to frost than I thought. The forms of frost sound very interesting. I did not realize that frost caused dehydration- good to know! All in all it sounds like an interesting book.

    1. When I first saw the book Jennifer, it seemed like a nice little book with some interesting info until I opened it and read it. So much packed into this book.

  21. I guess that book wouldn’t be for me since I’m in the deep south. But I appreciate the in-depth information and helpfulness for others. Enjoy your weekend!

  22. I hope the early frost didn’t do too much harm to your plants Donna, being surrounded by sea we rarely get frost, unlike when I lived inland in the south of England, frost can make things look very pretty, even beautiful, where as all the rain here just makes plants look soggy and flattened, keep warm on your frosty morns, Frances

    1. How water affects frost is one part of the book which I was unaware of. It did little damage as it was such a light frost and my plants are so hardy. Also coming in September with warm weather following I think helped.

      I adore the frosty morns and the refreshing feeling of the cold morning…I keep warm with a cup of tea 🙂

    1. I still can see its effect on our weather here Randy especially as our bizarre weather patterns keep happening. Maybe one day I may not have any frost here due to global warming…..that would actually be sad. Or maybe we will be plunged into an icy climate. Wouldn’t like that either.

    1. It can get a bit much but usually it is sporadic in September and October and then of course usual for Nov-March. It is the killing frosts in April and May that are hard to take.

  23. Oh there is frost again in your part of the world, i think i prefer it than fall. I love the outlines of leaves with those sparkles! Oh my when can i see them with my own eyes!

  24. Frost has not hit here yet. The Great Lakes keep us warmer than your area. I enjoy when the first frost hits, like your photos show. It means the landscape lays down to prepare for a winter’s nap.

    1. Love those sentiments Donna, “It means the landscape lays down to prepare for a winter’s nap.” We are about 45 minutes away from the Great Lake so we do get more frost being SE off the lake.

  25. Will definitely have to pick up this book…given our terribly cold climate, I’m very interested to read more about the subject.

    Your photos are lovely – I know it’s hard on the plants (well, maybe more on gardeners who don’t want summer to end) but frost looks so beautiful on certain flowers and leaves! 🙂

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