Thursday night was our first night of frost, followed by our second night on Friday. It was enough frost to burn the tender foliage of the nightshade and squash families. I want to put frost fabric over the tomatoes to extend the season for as long as possible, although I'll probably pull out the eggplants and squash plants. The peas and brassicas, celery and parsley look quite happy. The upper garden doesn't seem to be as frost damaged, but I'll still need to spend some time winterizing everything.
What do I mean by winterizing? I want to divide and move some plants around, wrap up fall weeding and pruning, pull out annuals, cover the ground with rice straw, which serves as erosion control and organic mulch. Why rice straw? All straw has some seed in it, so if you use a grass straw like oat or wheat, you'll end up with more grasses to weed later. Rice seed will not germinate in normal garden conditions, so it's preferred for use as mulch material. I've also planted a legume mix cover crop in the beds I'm not using over winter, which will fix nitrogen, increase organic matter and keep the soil from being bare.
The weather has been tricky to manage with the chicks. They are not quite feathered enough to stay out all night, especially not with frost in the air. We have winterized the chicken coop to keep it dry and protected from wind, and the coop is placed behind the house where it tends to be calm and protected anyway, but still not warm enough for our 6-week old chicks. They go out each morning and are collected each evening and brought inside. We arranged the chicken yard with chick havens where the big, bad rooster (Kazoo) can't get them.
I spent the afternoon getting my booth ready for the Placer Farm & Barn Tour tomorrow. I think I'm ready. All of the wristwarmers are tagged, the big stuff is in the car and the small stuff is all packed and ready to be carried out in the morning. If you come out, be sure to stop by Thompson Ranch and say hi!