How to recover from an early frost

So we had a surprise frost a couple of nights ago. Surprise in that we had been running 10F+ above typical temps for a long time, and the forecast was only predicting high 30’s for lows. But there’s no fooling the plants, all the bean, corn and squash leaves are at least part brown or more now.

I am debating what to do to salvage as much as possible. The squash plants may recover if we get some Indian Summer as the inner leaves are still green on some. The beans are largely done for, harvest the green beans, but I am less sure of what to do with the dry beans, which have formed but the pods are not dry yet (just yellow and starting to dry). I am thinking that best might be to leave them outside for a while until the pod shells are drier, even though we will likely get a couple of soggy days with this front, it should dry up and warm up after a few days.

Similar question on the sweet corn, which was just ripening. We’ve picked some but would prefer to leave it outside and harvest slowly if the ears will keep on the stalks even with some dead leaves. There is still some green on the leaves, maybe 50%.

Between our late spring snow and frost and now this early fall frost, this is turning into a poor year for fruit or vegie harvests. But that’s part of the game when growing stuff. May next year be better…


I’d leave them all where they are. Corn that close to ripe won’t be phased at all. The dry beans will dry outside or in as long as they are in a dry place. Bagging them up would cause mold. Those with yellowing pods will be normal.

Frost several weeks prior to harvest would reduce yield and quality. Close to harvest little or no damage.


HI Steve, I am too well experienced with late and early frosts that you misread so don’t cover. I agree with fruitnut. A light frost won’t hurt the squash if it is mostly mature and it seems to urge it along. I covered when we had a 28 deg but not the 30’s and mine are fine. We had a week of frost and cold beginning of the month and my sweet corn did fine. But it was almost ripe and is an op hardy type. Beans will keep drying down and even the not quite mature ones are fine for cooking, just not so pretty. In a really wet fall i’ve pulled whole plants and piled them loosely on sheets in an outbuilding to dry. But occasional rain doesn’t hurt. Mine are mostly harvested, the pods, in paper bags inside. But I still have some later maturers out there. My best defence for the frosts is a big pile of old Blankets! Hope your crops do better than you think they will. And you get a nice warm spell. We’re in the midst of a heat wave here so even my grapes are ripening when I thought they would be a loss earlier. This growing stuff does take a lot of faith!
PS - Anyone know if there’s a way to turn off this darn autos Pell option?!!

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im in zone 3 b and we had 2 light frosts and they never even affected the plants but in your zone they probably aren’t as cold hardy. usually takes a frost in the upper 20’s or colder to damage plants here.


We’re 5 ab or something, and I kind of count on a little cold snap, preferably with a very light frost, to harden off my tomatoes and peppers. Looks like we got it last night, and now I might get another two or three weeks of life.

But I did harvest any toms that were coloring- they’ll still be better’n store bought.


From my experience, if the weatherman says it dips into the 30s at all, and, it was a sunny clear day, that means frost is HIGHLY likely.

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Thanks all. Will leave things outside for now, but if the wet spell last any more than a couple of days, the beans at least will get moved to cover…

@JustAnne4 - Yes, usually I have a pretty good handle on how the temps here will do vs the NWS forecast lows. But I was lulled into complacency with so many weeks of warmer than predicted weather. Yet another lesson I guess; need to factor in changes in the overall weather pattern.

@moose71 - I am surprised that your plants (squash and beans at least) can survive a frost. Here if you just whisper frost around a squash plant its leaves die. But our humidity is generally very low here, that may be a factor.

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Haha, whereas gardening and weather are local, being lulled is common to mankind. :blush:
You reminded me of an experiment I wanted to do using diluted ammonia to protect from frost damage. I meant to try it last spring, but got lulled. :blush:
Our lows are still in the 60s, so it will be probably Nov for us.

I agree that humidity plays a significant role. We simply didn’th have a dry spell this year. I have snap beans planted along the south edge of my corn this year. An experiment that worked well. They were only slightly hit on the ends by the frosts. Thanks to protection from the corn of course but I think the damp ground and plants also helped. Dry frosts are definitely more damaging.

our higher humidity definitely helps but the more cold hardy cultivars we grow up here make them more frost tolerant too. my kale for instance takes temps into the teens before it dies off. even my zucchini which is pretty sensitive will still survive until a few upper 20’s frost before it finally kills it. we’ve had 2 frosts where it hit 30 and there is zero die off.

Impressive. Is that a commercially available variety of Zucchini?

yes it is but i threw out the packet so i don’t remember the name. it was specifically for short growing seasons.

Oh well. If you happen to recall its name (or the brand) let us know.