From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1. a thin layer of ice that forms on the ground, on grass, etc., when the air becomes cold
To farmers of fruits such as strawberries and citrus, especially in areas where frost is rare but happens, (for example, central and southern Florida), a frost can be a disaster.
For gardeners in upstate New York, frost is as certain as death, taxes, and snow.
It came this morning to several people I know in outlying areas. But in Binghamton and Johnson City proper, given our location in a river valley, we escaped it. It also helped that clouds started to form in early morning. We were lucky. At our house, it appears the temperature got down to 39 degrees.
Yes, it is a little early even for us. And we have another chance for frost tonight.
So what does frost do? Well, first off, temperature is funny. At the height air temperatures are taken, it could be too warm for frost, but at plant level, it can be cold enough for frost can form. Frost formation can depend on wind, on clouds. We have a rough guide from experience. When will frost form? And when won't it?
What frost does is form ice crystals on the plant leaves, and, for tender plants, it will injure or kill the plants. And what plants are tender? Well, a lot of what we grow in gardens: tomatoes, peppers, squash. Many annual flowers, including nasturtiums and marigolds. Some herbs, such as basil. Many other plants can take a light frost. Some can even survive what we call a "hard freeze".
Sometimes, you can save your tender plants by covering them. In that way, the frost doesn't form. But that only works so long. At some point, you have to let your plants go to that Great Plant Place in the Sky. Or wherever.
When that happens, I mourn the loss of the tomatoes, peppers and basil, and the ending of summer. I say goodbye to my frost-blackened flower plants. (Conveniently, I ignore the memories of sweaty heat waves and the droopy droughts of summer.)
As I (fortunately) don't depend on my garden for all, or even most of, my food, I don't fear the frost, but I do fear what comes next.
But once the frost comes, I won't be unhappy. It will be time for apples and pumpkins, for cinnamon scented cider, for donuts from the Cider Mill, for butternut squash, for the semi-annual Ithaca Library Book Sale, and the Ithaca Art Trail.
Unlike last year, we have a good apple crop.
And there is the turning of the leaves.
On second thought:
Bring fall on!
Do you live in a four season climate? What is your favorite season of the year?