In Saskatchewan, growing anything other than root vegetables past mid-August is generally a gamble. This year my fellow Saskies know that last night, Labour Day 2020, most of the province dipped WELL below 0. In Saskatoon, we sustained -6 for a couple hours. This is NOT normal at all – extremely early for such cold temperatures. And of course, these few extra cold nights will be followed by a couple warm weeks of good growing/ripening weather. The choice a gardener must make when faced with the first freeze of the year is to throw in the towel… or throw ON the towel. Pick your green tomatoes and hope they ripen, or cover them up and take the chance that they make it through to the warm temperatures on Wednesday.
In my first year gardening in the ground, I pulled everything out at the first freeze but was annoyed that it was followed by nearly a month of above 20 temperatures. Thus, I now choose to gamble.
I don’t think I’ve ever had to gamble at -6 though. -2, -3 is more normal for a first freeze. When it hits -6, it’s usually early October and time to dig everything out. But I just couldn’t surrender to nature on Labour Day!
Saturday was high 20’s and HOT, so I made the decision to cover everything that evening while it was still summery warm. I am not sure if there’s any weight to this theory but I was hoping that I could “catch” some of the warmth and that things would stay warmer if I didn’t wait until it was 5 degrees out to cover.
My tomatoes are covered in their red plastic houses, plus sheets, plus a large heavy tarp. My cucumbers are covered in a heavy blanket plus a tarp. My melons are covered in a light duvet plus some heavy plastic.
As tonight is still supposed to go down to +1, I am leaving the covers on until tomorrow. They will be in the dark from Saturday night to Wednesday morning, which should be fine for the tomatoes that just need to ripen, but I’m unsure if this will be too much darkness for my vine crops that are still growing (assuming they didn’t freeze).
I want to look! I want to know if they survived, but I need to wait at least another 24 hours. And really I’ve been waiting all summer – what’s one more day?