Arts & Life

Spill the Beans: Killing frost

When I moved to the farm after 13 years of living in the city, my grandmother suggested I start small. You know, small garden, only a few chickens, don’t bite off more than you can chew…I didn’t really listen. Maybe I should have. But now, almost three years into my prairie farm life, I think it might be too late to heed her wise advice…

Spill the beans is a weekly column chronicling my attempts at a self-sufficient life on this small prairie farm.


I’ve cried over lost plants. More than once. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. Like the time T mowed over some perennials I had been carefully tending in our city yard. Or the time some well-meaning helpers chopped down my chives, thinking they were weeds. And that time all of my beautifully sprouted butter crunch lettuce was eaten by bunnies.

It is hard to lose plants. You plant, water, weed. You prepare the beds so they’ll grow strong and produce much food for your family (and the army for whom I am, apparently, currently growing my garden). But sometimes, despite your best efforts, the plants still die or get mowed over.

Or freeze.

Dead Tomato
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

Last weekend, despite it basically being the beginning of June (!), there was a chance of frost. This was the WORST NEWS. FROST?!? I mean, come on, Mother Nature. Is this some kind of cruel joke?

The only way to deal with frost is to be proactive. In my case, that meant grabbing every single, sheet, towel, pillow case and blanket that I could find. I have some old sheets and blankets for plant-covering purposes, but I needed A LOT. Every single new plant needed to be covered. I was hesitant to take my beautiful, never-been-used, white bath towels (only for guest use) out to the garden. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And you know, a little dirt never hurt anyone, right? And white is a challenging colour for bath towels, don’t you think?

And, of course, to add more problems the mix, we were experiencing hurricane-type winds. So T was in charge of finding rocks to hold down the sheets, towels, blankets and pillow cases.

Then we left for the weekend. And I was nervous.

Apparently, despite our best efforts, it wasn’t quite enough. Some of the covers still blew right off the plants and as the temperature dipped down to -2 C (for over three hours!), some plants just didn’t survive.

Withered leaves
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

When we got home on Sunday, I checked the chickens (doing fine, of course) and immediately went to the garden, sort of freaking out about what I might find.

Initially, it looked bad. Many leaves had clearly been touched by the frost. Brown spots and withered leaves were EVERYWHERE. But as I looked closer, I realized that there was also still a lot of green. In many cases, the top small leaves were frozen, but the stems were still strong and the lower leaves looked healthy, thriving even.

Brown leaves
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

And of course, the lettuce, parsley and peas loved the cold weather and couldn’t have looked more beautiful after a few cold nights.

Gorgeous lettuce
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

So, we’ve replaced a few tomato plants, some eggplants, the butternut squash and a pepper plant. And just like that, despite the drama of frost, we are back on track.

Fingers crossed.

Pepper saved
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck


Jamie Dyck is baking bread. Follow her on twitter @jndyck.