While winter seems to come later and later every year, eventually it’ll happen. You’ll wake up one morning, go outside, and find sparkling crystals of ice on the grass and your car: it’s the first frost of the year. Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge when the first frost will be. Upstate New York has already gotten their first frost, but because we’re in a slightly different hardiness zone we won’t see the first frost occurring for another couple of weeks. In zone 7, where Long Island is located, the average date that freezing temperatures usually occur is about November 15. Dates can vary, but generally speaking, we’ll have a light freeze midway through November.
Frost occurring doesn’t necessarily mean your growing season is completely over. If you have a cold frame or greenhouse you can still extend it for a few weeks, but you’ll want to start thinking about picking the last of your broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and spinach before the first moderate freeze comes, which will damage or kill your plants.
If you have a garden you’ll want to get your mulching done before the first frost, as the mulch will protect tender plants from the cold and help to keep them from drying out.
Clear out any dead plants that are left in your garden. Old stalks and weeds should go into the compost so that pests have nowhere to overwinter. If the plants were diseased, toss them in the trash.
You’ll also want to bring in any container plants you want to keep over the winter. They will not survive the cold weather, so they should be making their way inside now.
If you plan on planting any trees, it’s starting to get late in the season. The roots will likely have time to establish themselves before the ground freezes, but once the first hard freeze comes it may be too late, so use discretion.
Finally, collect seeds! Those dead heads on your flowers contain all of the seeds you’ll need for your garden next year. Deadheading your plants isn’t just good garden hygiene, it’s also a great way to re-seed next year.