Yes, FROST in June Still Kills Plants!

Can you believe this? Two nights ago we had a light FROST! That’s right, June 13th. Frost.

It killed all of my tomato plants. Damaged most of my pepper plants.

It wasn’t forecast to be that cold (and I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold) so I didn’t cover anything.

Almost all of my 48 pepper plants got bit on the top. All new tender growth killed. Lots of new growth flower/buds, dead.

I have hundreds of corn. Many of them got partially zapped – but I believe they’ll make it.

The potatoes are fine.

So, we drove to the nursery the next day. Almost ALL of what they had was entirely gone. Nadda. And this is a descent size nursery with lots of green houses. Already sold out due to so many new gardeners this year.

But I did find a handful of tomato plants. So I replaced them yesterday.

Do you know what happened last night? It “almost” frosted again! It was 35 degrees when Mrs.J got up (she gets up earlier than I do). When I got up, she gave me the news. I hesitantly went out there to check again (after my coffee of course).

Thank goodness it looks okay.

June Frost | Lessons Learned

Unfortunately we have a short growing season here. So we need to plant veggies of varieties that are generally shorter to maturity.

I need to stay very aware of the forecast on each end of the short season.

We had a beautiful and warm second half of May. So we planted early (beginning of the last week of May). That said, we would have planted by June 1st anyway – though paying attention to frost forecasts because we’ve always had a frost very early June. But this one, middle of June?!!

Every year that we’ve been here so far (~ 6 years) we’ve had a killing frost sometime during the first week of September, cutting the season short. It’s frustrating because often it warms back up again for a delightful September month! Ugh…

I certainly have to be creative and careful about what I plant up here. I don’t have greenhouses. But that’s what is really needed to extend this growing season into what would be just long enough to be comfortable. I envy you southerners who can garden for so much of the year.

For the life of me I cannot understand how you folks up in Canada can garden. Granted, I’m not too terribly far from your border, but really? What do have like 60 days to garden?!

The good thing is, the high calorie vegetables (my potatoes and corn) are okay. I hope to can lots of the harvest. Time will tell…

Hey, at least my apple trees are finally producing apples!

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56 Comments

  1. I feel your pain. We did get a light frost in the first few days of June but escaped this one. Others in the area did get frost though. It was definitely not predicted. I’ve got the peppers, eggplants, melons and squash all covered. The tomatoes though aren’t so they would have been toast. I’ve kept some extra seedlings around just in case; they don’t look great anymore but beggars can’t be choosy!

    And yes, I hope to be able to add a greenhouse/high tunnel for next year. I always had these on the farm so I’m not used to trying to grow this stuff outside at this latitude and elevation. And to add to the fun we’re definitely in a drought. And the temps keep bouncing around; swinging from lows in the mid-30’s to pushing 90 over just a few days time. Crazy weather.

    Some of the early stuff I direct seeded didn’t grow. Suspect it has to do with the company it’s from; a number of us are having problems with their seeds. I’m giving up on having any spinach for now. Maybe for a fall crop!

  2. sorry to see the damage ken. Try looking around for old nurseries and garden centers and see if they have any old unused hoop houses laying about with weeds growing up through them. Might be a good local source for greenhouses.

    you may need to grow under cover for sensitive plants as a standard production technique for your area. A lot of commercial Canadian farms grow in green houses or hoop houses for tomatoes peppers and other cold sensitive plants. If we are entering a grand solar minimum you can expect more of this type of weather pattern in the near future.

  3. We’re in Southern New Mexico and it got down to 29 and some people’s houses. We were 33 but I still covered at 3:30 in the morning. It worked. Tomatoes and bell peppers were in walls of water so that kept them nice and warm. We’ve been 60 at night and tonight we’re going to be 49! Everything is growing rather slow

  4. Aw geez, Ken, that stinks! I know what a shock it is to have your plants humming along and then suddenly, POOF! they’re toast. You wouldn’t normally expect a freeze halfway through June.

  5. Ken, I’m so sorry to hear about your tomatoes! That’s very unusual to have frost that late. We haven’t had a frost this month, but it’s been rather cool at night, and many people are having trouble getting melons/cukes/squash to germinate or grow. I don’t know how cold it gets when the first frost hits you in September, but floating row cover might be a way to make it to that more delightful September weather. I bought some this year, 6ft wide, which would be wide enough to provide some protection for fairly tall plants, depending on how cold. There’s some row cover that will protect down into the 20’s, but don’t know how heavy or wide that is.

  6. That is awful about your tomatoes. We had a cold front. But in Texas that means it got down to 70. So sorry to hear about your plant loss. We lost some last year due to a late frost in April. We had to replace alot of plants. Its heartbreaking.

  7. sigh…. we know what it is this crazy weather. Have had a nice week with low humidity and in the high 50’s at night. The change is coming later this week though with the 90’s on the way.

  8. Yes, I lost my green beans and had to replant. Replacements are doing well though. I had covered my tomatoes, peppers and cabbages. They are fine. So are my peas, lettuce, microgreens and radishes.

  9. Don’t pull the plants–keep an eye on the survivors and get seeds from them. Each year do the same. Too hot? Keep seeds from the survivors. Too cold? Too dry? Keep seeds from the survivors. Get flooded out and one plant survives? Keep seeds!

    My tomatoes routinely survive mild frosts. I have to keep that option for peppers until I can reliably get fruit off of them. :)

    Keep at least three (preferably five) years worth of seeds.

    Also, consider building a small greenhouse or convert a small shed and keep a group of plants there all season.

  10. Not sure if this could have triggered the frost to hit, but there was a solar flare on the 9th of June it would have hit about the time of your plants demise.

    When I remember to look at Windydotcom it will show what is moving into an area. The lower to upper central part of the USA is being hit with a heat wave now. Even areas that should be cool are being hit with hot zones. fyi

    Depending on the wind patterns it could cross over your area soon.

    1. Where I am at in China, the temps are now in the mid 90’s with heat indexes over 105. Last year this time it was in the low 90’s with heat indexes in the upper 90’s. But then again those temps didn’t last long last year either. It was a nice spring, then temps jumped to the 90’s for a few weeks and then it was a few months over 100. This year so far has been more gradual allowing the body to adjust a little better to the increasing temps.
      Sorry to hear about the tomatoes Ken.
      Ohh this global warming is something. 🤔

      1. My friend has to replant his garden three times last year because of all the rains. All the rain kept wiping out his plants. They would die and the weather would get better and he would replant. Then a short time later the rains would hit again.

  11. Ken,
    Sorry about the death of your plants.
    I am very new to trying to garden. I have a very black thumb. But we are trying. Weather here in NW Washington has been brutal. Wet wet wet!! 12 straight days if heavy heavy rain. Planted potatoes in April and they rotted. Don’t know if I should replant or not? Is it too late? Corn is going well but now looks a bit more yellow than green. Hope we don’t lose that. The Grandboys are really looking forward to that. Tomatoes are in the greenhouse and looking good, but never have been able to grow anything bigger than paste type. No beefsteak, which I love.
    Will keep on trying. Peas did well and will try more of those next year.
    Hope you get a longer season into Sept this year to help out with the reset.
    PEACE
    MadFab

    1. MadFab –

      That should be your “thumb of color”; M’mmkaay?

      But seriously – I’m so glad to hear your foot is mending without major intervention. Feet are important!

      1. TMac,
        You sir are absolutely correct!!
        I am so very sorry. To whom shall I make my check out to for the reparations of damage I have done with my thoughtless use of words?
        (Sarc)
        Thanks , I think feet are pretty important too.
        Especially the one on the right( gas pedal)
        Stay safe down there🙂
        PEACE
        MadFab

  12. Yup same here but we expect these things in june and even in august in the north and keep one eye on the forecast and get everything covered or sprayed down before the sun comes up , good luck

  13. Ken,

    sorry about your t’maters. Yup, we get freak frosts in the Rockies too. I am reminded by an old neighbor, ” that’s why its called farming. if you didn’t have losses, they’d call it “gathering”. ” We are trying a hoop house this year, the winds have blown the cover off three times. First cutting of hay was only 1/2 of last year. but the potatoes are doing well. Only the pears are doing well in the fruit department, peaches and apricots- nope, apples dismal, plums marginal . that’s why we grow a variety of stuff. When we have a bumper crop, we preserve everything for the years we don’t do so well. Don’t pull those peppers, they will come back if you give them a chance. I am really becoming aware that either a hoop house (if I build it wind proof) or a dug-out greenhouse might be the answer for the more sensitive crops with all the weather swings we have seen lately. row crop only the very hearty, robust crops with high yields. Also, I have it on good word from an agronomist friend that there are micronutrient sprays you can spray on fruit blossoms to prevent them from freezing. I’ll report on that when I get more read up on it.

  14. Sorry Ken,

    Wish I could ship you a few days of 90 degree + days in exchange for a few cool ones! :)

    If the frost didn’t out right kill the plants you may be able to salvage some for at least a partial crop. Baby the survivors for a just a few days and see.

    My FIL was a commercial truck farmer for years. He said if you wash the frost off the plants before the sun hits them they will do fine. (He used a tractor and a spray rig in his fields for this.) I have never tried this but if it works ……

  15. We’ve had some cold and wet weather up here in North Idaho the last couple of weeks also. Cold enough to where I lost some mellon and cucumber plants, but everything else was OK. I’ll just replant those. Lost a few pepper plants to, but most made it. Sorry you lost a bunch of your plants, but don’t give up. Remember, you reap what you sow, and if you don’t re-sow, you won’t get much. Here’s a “Green Thumb” to you.

  16. Bummer! Sorry to hear about your plants. I totally feel your pain, between the crazy weather/ravenous squirrel hordes and my brown thumb- I’ve barely got 6 apples left on my apple tree and am on a third set of tomato plants (seedlings died off -resorted to store bought plants and their untimely demise had us running back for whatever left at store) I’ll be happy with whatever survivors remain in our garden…good luck
    At least chicks are safe and warm

  17. Fireswamp
    It is a year of little to no apples, maybe next year since this appears to be the off year. Apparently others are experiencing apple loss this year.

  18. Sorry to hear that freeze takes your plats down. I live in Finland and, believe or not, we have no freeze here. Coldest night in this month was 46 F daytime 68-68 F

  19. Madfab, I’ve been gardening in NW WA for many years. I’ve learned a lot by trial and error. We should be drying out soon so I think you can plant more potatoes since we usually have at least part of September as an Indian summer. For corn, knee high by the 4th of July. Add some fish fertilizer then to give them a nutrition boost. For tomatoes, the plants thrive touching each other. Without a greenhouse plant young plants no earlier than Mother’s Day. Delay a bit if it’s too rainy and cold. My favorite tried and true tomato plant is Early Girl. It’s a reliable producer. Not large like beefsteak, but larger than paste tomatoes and bursting with flavor. Happy gardening!

    1. NW Gal,
      Thanks for the advice on the potatoes corn and tomatoes!
      Don’t think I have seen ya post before?
      Welcome if ya are new to Ken’s great site. Welcome back if ya have been away.
      Cannot believe all this rain but today is glorious. Replanting the potatoes in the morning. Do you know, can you plant potatoes in same bed for a couple years or do you have to rotate each season? Heard niteshade plants have to move always. No idea, as I said I am a very new very bad gardener but I am trying.
      Nice to meet ya NW Gal.
      PEACE
      MadFab

      1. MadFab, Thanks for the nice welcome! This is the first time I’ve posted here, although I’ve been reading Ken’s blog for several months. Good information for sure. When I read your comment, I figured I could share something of value. I hope you find it helpful in your gardening adventures. I think the issue with nightshade plants is that certain diseases can permeate the soil and cause subsequent plantings to be sickly. I haven’t had that issue because I make sure I pull out all my tomato plants at the end of the season and don’t let them contaminate the dirt. I don’t compost them either. I also add lots of steer manure and/or more garden soil prior to planting tomatoes again. For root plants like potatoes I don’t use manure, just compost and/or garden soil. I’ve had my tomatoes in the same spot for almost 20 years, right next to the house where they’re best protected from rain and wind and benefit from the afternoon sun. I’ve tried other spots for some plants, but by the house has always produced the best. Some of my plants grow over 5′ tall, with support of course. I think your potatoes can stay in the same spot with the precautions I mentioned. I hope your garden does well. It’s seemed like an ongoing experiment for me. Something new every year. Btw, I’ve had a tough time with slugs this year. Finally resorted to beer in cottage cheese containers at strategic locations. It’s working like a charm. They’re at least dying happy! I hope your garden does well. Nice to meet you too, MadFab!

        1. One thing to be aware of is that the nightshade diseases for the most part aren’t native. If they’re not in the soil and they don’t come in on something you plant (or carry over from a neighbor) they probably won’t be an issue.

          I haven’t purchased tomatoes or potato starts for probably five years, so unless something blows in from a neighbor’s garden I could still plant in the same place without a problem. I do rotate, because all the nightshades use the same nutrients so I don’t plant them in the same place two years in a row.

          1. Lauren,
            Thanks for the info on the nightshades. I planted the potatoes last year in pots and then dumped the dirt after harvest because all the red potatoes had scabby skin and all the middles were rotten. Yellow Finn and Yukon and Russian fingerling were all great. Had just heard not to do the same year after year.
            Replanting yesterday and today. Some in pots and some in raised beds. Wish me luck😜
            PEACE
            MadFab

        2. NW Gal,
          Yes the slugs have gone insane this rainy wet spring. I too use the beer in containers. 2 years ago we had a puppy, she is still a puppy just waaay bigger,lol.
          She chewed up everything. When I put the beer out in cut water bottles, she very very carefully picked them up, not spilling a drop, UNTIL she got them in the house to the living room carpet!! Man the smell of old slimy beer studded with dead slugs is a stink ya don’t soon forget!!!
          Just replanted the spuds. Some in raised beds and some in pots. We will see how they work.
          Hope to see ya post more. Nice to have new folks .
          PEACE
          MadFab

          1. MadFab, I cringed at the image of spilt slug beer! Oh boy! We have dogs too. One reason I won’t use slug bait. Glad you could replant your potatoes. We should have a pretty good harvest this year! We should all share our results at the end of the season. That would be fun! Thanks for the welcome. I’ll be around. 😊

  20. In 1999 we bought a greenhouse (for Y2K) and after 20 years we finally put it up this spring. What a difference! Our mile high elevation makes gardening tricky; If I delay planting, I often waste weeks of growing time anticipating a frost that never comes, and the next year we lose weeks recovering from a late frost. But not this year. The dozen tomato plants In the greenhouse have set over 80 tomatoes already and one variety has plants that have grown to over 5 feet tall. It’s not a large greenhouse, but well worth the time and effort to build it right. BTW, we built it this year because our business was shut down for 4 weeks and we had the time. We were also given a smaller greenhouse, same style, but most of the plastic panels were damaged during disassembley. We put it to work as a “screen house” with the frame covered with chicken wire. We no longer have to fight deer, cattle, rabbits, javalina, and ground squirrels for cold hardy plants like sweet peas, cabbage, and asparagus.
    I highly recommend adding a greenhouse. It’s fun to go in each morning and “buzz” the flowers with a child’s electric toothbrush to simulate bee pollination. It was definitely an investment of time and money to do it right. These may be the most expensive tomatoes we’ve ever eaten (not unlike the eggs from our chicken fortress), but I’m looking forward to a bumper crop and a pantry stocked with homemade sauce and salsa!

  21. Sorry to hear this Ken, but welcome to the Grand Solar Minimum! Or to the effects of it, I should say. I think weather patterns will become challenging for all of us gardeners no matter where we live from now on. I think a greenhouse is a must. You should probably look into the kind that has a stone or concrete wall in the back on the north side to reflect heat absorbed during the daytime hours back into the space at night. A lot of work, but it lasts forever. Doesn’t have to be huge. I couldn’t do my garden without my greenhouse. And it grows our greens and radishes etc., and holds my lemon and fig trees throughout the winter. I even grow bok choy and celery in there. Everything is in pots and trays, not in-ground. And it is a very happy place to go in the dead of winter. Good luck with the new plants. After hearing yesterday truckers may stop deliveries to cities (distribution centers?) we may need all the food we are growing.

    1. DJ
      Growing in containers has some definite benefits, the biggest one is being able to toss the growing media if you have viral or bacterial issues. Fixing that stuff in actual ground is not so easy sometimes and can take several seasons to mitigate.
      Personally i want to get a hydroponics setup to grow lettuce. In the ground i am finding issues again related to a disease i found a few years back, apparently i still havent let the garden rest long enough 🙄
      Trial and error, no matter how long ya been doin this stuff theres always something!

  22. So sorry to hear you got frosted. 😒. We had been given a frost warning by a neighbor that same night, but the news said only to go into the thirties. Thankfully, we are good for this round, however, our fruit trees already got hit earlier in the month.

    It seems the bounty each year is distributed in some manner. When one crop is hit hard another comes in really well. I am sure your potatoes and corn will be plentiful.

    It is time for us to get used to not having some items available due to bad crops. We have to be able to manage over a longer time frame when we put up our goods. And think about this large scale, which means other food supply (store) providers are not going to have certain foods available either.

    I guess we are all going to learn to roll with the punches! I hope this is it for you Ken…no more frosts until late September.

  23. The joys of gardening! It’s so simple. Just turn the dirt, throw in some seeds and in 90 days you can come back and harvest a Currier and Ives cornucopia image of vegetables. Sorry to hear you lost part of your crop.

    Several years ago I began staggering my seedlings and plantings (starting new ones about 10-15 days apart) that way if I had a unforeseen event (freeze, drought, insects, fungus) I would still have plants in various stages of growth to replace any I lost. I usually end up with a lot more than we can eat or can (and I can a lot) but it doesn’t go to waste as I share it with friends. Better to have more and have to feed it to the critters than come up short and starve during the winter.

    1. That’s a good idea–this year I could have planted in early April with no ill effects, but last year we had snow into the middle of may. If I plan for three plantings, a month apart, I can replace anything that gets frosted and have extras to give away!

      1. Lauren

        In our growing zone, in addition to succession planting, there’s also the notion of the fall garden. Many root crops, greens, and even some legumes can be planted in early July to mature when the temperatures cool. Some are even better tasting after a couple of frosts; kale is one example. I will start a lot of brassicas indoors to give them the lower germ temps they like, then plant out in time for a fall harvest.

        1. I’ve tried a fall garden and will probably try again this year. It’s a juggling act–July and August are our hottest months, so the little seedlings really struggle. Planting end of August when it starts to cool off is too late.

          1. Lauren

            It’s challenging here, too, depending on what our now unpredictable summer weather pattern is. In addition to starting them inside where it’s easier to control germination temps, I will pot them up at least once to gain size. When I put them out, I’ll try to time it for a relatively ‘cooler’ spell, in the evening, watered in well and heavily mulched. If it’s just outrageously hot, I do all of the above and try to site the transplants in the afternoon shade of taller plants, or create some dappled afternoon shade with scrub sapling and brush trimmings (I’m cheap like that, lol.) Just some ideas – sounds like you might be dealing with more heat extremes than we do. Ours bounce around – high 80/90’s, rarely over 100, and lately weirdly cooler weather patches in August.

            We must all become Ninja gardeners! :-)

  24. RC, Lauren,

    Spaced planting throughout the growing season- damn smart planning imho. I will try that next year. learning so much about this hoop house this year. I will have to up the “standard design” from plastic pipe and plain visqueen to steel conduits and fiber reinforced plastic with UV inhibitors. Oh well, that’s why I tried it this year. I think the tomatoes are doing well in there, but maybe getting a little too hot, despite the ventilation holes I put around the bottom and on the top ends. I think that fiber reinforced plastic will offer a bit of shade too. all good info.

    1. If they get too hot, they’ll just stop producing until the weather cools in the fall. Then you’ll have a protected late season harvest.

  25. Had ALL 4 beds planted….got a killing frost June 8 and snow as well. PHOOEY!
    everything sold out…..started all new seeds. Will likely harvest something in fall (hopeful) but will have to “hoop” the beds in early Oct if I expect to get anything! Rough season start.

  26. Thats the thing that concerns me most about relying on our garden to eat,
    The what if this or that happens,
    Have had a rainstorm and wind come through and pretty much destroy anything above ground garden wise, is pretty disappointing when doing it for fun or as a supplement, but if that garden was all you had you would be screwed.
    Been concentrating on more hearty plants, root crops, generally whenever its looking like we will get a bunch of corn and stuff the storms start showing up, almost like mother nature knows!

  27. Deep South here but we have also had unusually cool evenings. Not complaining though. I planted super early and then we got some colder weather. I wrapped my tomato cages in the plastic wrap you can get in the painting section and secured with clothes pins. During the day I would peel back the plastic enough for the sun to get to them and at dusk I would rewrap. This went on for several weeks. A pain for sure but it protected them well. If the temp is expected to be lower than 50 I will do this as the cold upsets the tomato blossoms and cause them to drop. The same with peppers.
    I do hope yours will come on back. Good luck! It’s been a crap shoot for sure this year

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