The Starter Farm

First Frost

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There it was covering top of the lawn ever so lightly.  Shimmering as first rays of the morning’s light fell across the yard and then it was gone.  Yes, as every gardener knows this time of the year brings the season’s first frost.  We notice the slight burns on summer plants holding out until the first hard frost ends their growth for the season.

            The Santa Ynez Valley experiences light frost throughout the winter but not for so long that we cannot put in a winter crop for this year round growing zone.  My onions that I planted a couple of weeks ago are breaking ground, the sprouting broccoli is taking hold, and 3 different types of kale, Lacinato, Red Russian and Curly leaf are thriving and actually taste sweeter after a frost.  According to plant biologist Dean Kopsell, a frost stops an enzymatic reaction that creates metallic, bitter flavors in plants. Once the reaction is gone, the unpleasant flavors are no longer produced allowing the sweet nutty flavors of kales to shine through. I also planted a new fantastic type of Red Frill mustard green that is adding a great kick to salads. The Fava bean seedlings actually popped up 2 weeks ago and are now a couple of inches high.  I plant Fava beans not only for the crop that will emerge in the early spring but so that these beans will add nitrogen to the soil when tilled under for next summer’s vegetables.  Also, Fava bean greens are tasty sautéed with a splash of truffle oil and pepper.  These plants are excellent cover crops that many farmers plant during the over wintering period to “fix”, i.e. replenish, soils.

            I’m still figuring out planting schedules for these winter crops.  Last year, I only planted in one area that did not receive great winter sun with limited results.  With the addition of new beds this year that receive full sun all winter long, I am already seeing better growth.  It will be interesting to see if my English garden peas survive the valley’s light frosts since they tend to be little more delicate.

            My brother Kevin asked what’s available to eat for Thanksgiving.  I still have butternut squash, pumpkins, lettuces ready to go, a few apples and the walnuts should have cured enough to crack open before turkey



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