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Midland farmer explains why some crops thrive when frost hits, and offers tips for winter harvesting


COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – The planting season is alive and well in the Midlands this winter.

According to Sal Sharpe, owner of Sal’s Ol ‘Timey Feed & Seed in Colombia, even when temperatures drop below freezing your garden is safe.

Sharpe said one of the most common misconceptions is that a frost will damage winter crops. However, she said it wasn’t because a frost in South Carolina has nothing to do with a frost in the northeast.

To better understand why winter crops can thrive in cold weather, it’s important to understand the difference between a frost and a frost, Sharpe said.

“A frost is a hard frost where the ground actually freezes,” she said. “So if you put your hand in there, it’s actually frozen. We don’t have a lot of them in South Carolina. We have a lot of jelly, especially here in the Midlands.

Freezing is much more common and can occur without freezing.

Because temperatures fluctuate so much, they don’t damage winter crops even when they drop below freezing. The soil below retained its warmth for the plants in these cases, Sharpe said.

“Our ground freezes very, very rarely,” she said. “For the ground to freeze, it will have to be cold day and night. So if we have a frost and it goes back to 70, this soil has not lost temperature.

Sharpe compares temperature changes to turning an oven on and off. Most cold weather crops can survive even temperatures of 10 degrees.

“Now bring your dogs, bring the kids, pack the kids, but your plants, if they go down to 3 for a few hours, won’t be hurt,” she said.

Some of the crops you can harvest all winter include lettuce, arugula, cabbage, kale, cabbage, turnip, radish, swede, and onion. Not only does a light frost not hurt them, some thrive and taste sweeter after a freeze.

“Lettuce, cabbage, turnips, they taste so much better when the frost hits,” she said.

This is because the gel transforms starches into sugar in crops.

According to Sharpe, now is the time to plant strawberries in your garden. If you plant them now, they’ll likely be ready for harvest by the second week of February, when the days get longer, she said.

Sharpe said when temperatures hit the 70s in winter like this week, it puts additional stress on crops in cold weather.

“It’s really hard on them,” she said. “These are cold weather crops. You need to water them a little more if it is up to 78 degrees. This whole week is going to be a lot hotter so make sure you water everything well, and if you could put some shade cloth on it that would help a lot.

There are two big things about winter crops, Sharpe said.

“Number one, no bugs,” she said. “And number two, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. So you can plant onions and cut the tops, use them as chives in your baked potatoes, and every three weeks they’ll come back. Likewise with lettuce, turnips, cabbage, cabbage, broccoli.

Data released this month by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the price of fruits and vegetables in grocery stores nationwide has increased by four percent over the past year. Sharpe said that not only could you save money by harvesting your own fruits and vegetables, but it’s also better for you.

RELATED STORY: ‘It’s hard for everyone’: Rising grocery prices are forcing Midland shoppers to change stores, buy less

“Growing your own vegetables is so much healthier,” she said. “And getting out here in the air, breathing the nice air, getting your vitamin D, getting out of the house, exercising, is so beneficial on so many levels.”

from Sal is generally open for business on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. You can spend Tuesday December 28 from 11:30 am to 5 pm. They will be closed for the end of year celebrations.

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