Get your yard ready for the first hard frost

I am waiting for that really big — meaning cold and hard — frost to hit. In fact, aren’t we all? It is not time yet, but close enough to start hauling our warmer jackets out. Night temperatures are in the 30s.

This being the case, it appears to me that hoses are not going to be needed anymore this year. If I am wrong and you need to water something, you can use a watering can.

Disconnect your water systems, remove any timers and on/off valves. Drain them so they won’t crack when frozen.

It is also a good idea to uncoil your hoses and let them drain as well. Newer, modern hoses probably won’t crack when water expands during the freezing process. But why risk it? Of course, lawn sprinklers and the errant watering tool should also be put away.

Then there is the tool shed. It is always best to clean yours now so things are ready to go next spring. Besides, you want to be able to get to that shovel or long pole this winter if you need to.

If you have one of those metal tool sheds, consider getting a few two-by-fours to shore up the roof from the inside to give it more support. I can assure you it is going to snow, and we will probably gets lots of it. If we do, you will thank yourself for this.

Next, it is time to clean up the vegetable gardens and boxes. Yes, Brussels sprouts get sweeter if they have been exposed to frost, but yours have had enough of cool nights to harvest before the moose decide they really aren’t that bad. Potatoes should be fine. Get those carrots and beets, too!


Speaking of moose, which I wasn’t, if you want to spray or paint trees and bushes with Plantskydd, now is the time. It is messy stuff to apply when temps remain below freezing. When you use it, it appears to moose that you have an active wolf in your yard and, in theory, they stay away.

That hard frost, when it comes, is the one that makes it more difficult to mark the driveway and paths so you know what to shovel when it snows. There is a fine line between staking now and waiting as there are still leaves to mow up and the stakes get in the way.

Personally, it was a terrible year for our raspberries. The meager-producing plants we had this year should be cut out. The remaining ones will — hopefully — produce next year and can be trimmed to four feet so they are ready to go next spring.

OK, have you planted those spring flowering bulbs I told you to buy? They most surely are easier to plant when the ground is not frozen. Similarly, we are real close to garlic planting — in theory, a week or so before the first frost. Hard neck types are best for our winters.

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Listen to the “Teaming with Microbes” podcast with Jeff Lowenfels and Jonathan White

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Finally, have you been seeing wood frogs in your yard? They eat insects and slugs. As a result of an interview with Dr. John Larson, wood frog expert at UAF on the Teaming With Microbes podcast — Friday, Sept. 15 edition where ever you get podcasts — you might consider setting up a “frog pond” near your garden.

The idea is some frogs will winter over in the area and use the “pond” to breed next spring. You can try a large plastic container, perhaps a small kiddie wading pool. Fill it all the way and put a few large logs or cut two-by-fours to absorb the pressure of ice forming so it won’t crack. Add a few branches to hold eggs and that is it.

Of course if you come across frogs between now and the frost, toss them in so they know the pond is in your garden area.

When the frost hits, the frogs dig into the duff deep enough to keep a steady temperature and set up an internal antifreeze system. They hibernate all winter. Fascinating creatures — and a podcast interview worth listening too.

Get to it. Nights are getting longer. It is cold. A hard frost is a coming.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

BOOtanical Gardens: Halloween is back this year. Sept. 15-Oct. 22, the garden celebrates Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This family friendly fall display is $8 per person. Members and children 6 and under are free, which is just one more reason to join.

Houseplants: Keep an eye out for spider mites.

Spring flowering bulbs: Plant as many as you can afford!

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.