When the weather starts to turn cold, and the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, it is time to prepare your garden for the winter.  Make sure that you are ready for the first frost.  In the past, the weather history for Boise, Idaho has shown us that the first frost can occur as soon as the beginning of October. That means you will want to harvest all of your warm weather vegetables before that time frame.

Predict The First Frost
 One way to predict early frost is by taking a look at the highest temperature on a particular day. Let's say that the temperature reaches no higher than 75 degrees. When that is the case, temperatures at night very rarely go below 32 degrees, which is when frost occurs. Wind can also be factored in. When the weather is still at night, it allows cold air to remain near the ground. A breeze will push the air around to some extent. If the wind is heavy, it will completely remove most or even all the warm air that is just above the ground. Clouds can also factor in and give us insight as to whether a frost will occur or not. If there are thick clouds when the sun sets, the clouds will help reduce ground cooling and keep frost away. If you don’t have time to focus on the weather, just check your local weather report in the early evening to check out the dew point.  Usually frost will not occur if the evening dew point is higher than 45 degrees.

Depending on the area you have placed your garden can also impact it in the fall and winter weather. If your garden is on high ground or an incline, chances are that your plants will survive due to the fact that warm air rises, and cold air will stay on the lower ground. Plants that grow close to the ground (not tall plants such as tomato and pepper plants) usually will be protected by the earth's warmth.

All gardeners should make it a point to know the difference between hard freezes and light frosts. A very light frost comes with temperatures that are lower than 32 degrees, which means that conditions are ready for light ice to form. The light ice forms due to condensed water vapor that freezes. Hard freezes come when there have been four or more hours of continuous temperatures below a particular point. A hard freeze will kill many plants if they are not properly protected. This will occur when temperatures drop below 25 degrees. There are many varieties of plants that can make it through a very quick frost, most garden plants are not meant to be grown when hard freezes take place and they will not survive.


Shutting Your Garden Down Until Next Season

You may be tempted to keep your garden available in the cooler months. Remember, a frost can come suddenly. Be prepared and begin shutting your garden down now. There will be many days of beautiful weather during this time. This is the perfect time to spend outdoors in fall clothing and crisp air to put your garden to sleep. You can begin planning for your garden for the next year. To shut your garden down, you will simply be cleaning up debris in the area, storing things that won't be needed again until next spring and taking inventory of things you want to be ready for next season. First you will need to make sure to clear away any stems or plants that are no longer growing or will cease growing with the first frost. This will prevent disease from killing your plants next spring. Never procrastinate! It may be too cold for you to want to do it later. This will ensure next year's garden will be healthy and vivacious. You will have far less work to do next spring because you will be able to see all problem areas now. 

After you have cleaned your garden area, start getting the area prepared for next year. Take time to test your soil to see if it has the right balance of nutrients. Fall weather is the perfect temperature of doing yard work.  Cover your entire bed with at least three inches of a mix of compost and manure. Thanks to rain and melting snow that comes in the winter, the compost nutrients will seep down deep into your soil so that you have rich soil that is ready for your spring planting.

Next, spend time dividing and cutting back all of your perennials so that they are ready for next spring. Perennials go dormant in the fall, which means that pulling them up, dividing them and cutting away portions will not be a huge shock on them.  Do the work now while the ground is not cold. You will have plenty of time for rain to water your divided transplants between now and spring. Your perennials will be in great shape for next spring.

Start Planting Flower Bulbs Now

First shut down your vegetable garden, then you can work on getting your flower bulbs planted. Bulbs need plenty of time to grow and root underground for next season. These are the flowers that will be the first to bloom for you come spring. Unlike other times during the year, you will be able to find bulbs for sale in so many stores right now. As soon as you bring your bulbs home, get them into the ground.  Do not wait for the possibility of a surprise early frost.  Think about where to plant them.  Determine what areas of your yard get a lot of sun, and then modify the soil with compost. Bulbs are one of the easiest ways to have beautiful flowers with very little work. Dig your holes, and place the bulbs into them with the pointed side of the bulb facing up. If you miss a few by placing them point-side down, most likely they will still grow just fine. If you are planting small bulbs, dig 5-inch holes for them. For very large bulbs, dig 8-inch holes for them.

You will really appreciate just what a time saver bulbs.  Bulbs require so little effort on your part.  Envision how you want to lay them out, as the possibilities are endless. You can spend a couple of hours planting all your bulbs and you will have many colorful blooms when the warmer weather arrives. There are many types of bulbs that are popular because of their beauty. If you want amazing fragrance, try hyacinths in a variety of colors. For a bit of fancy, plant allium bulbs. Daffodils will bring grat beauty for spring and Easter.