A Question of Tenderness

Of those who successfully cultivate them I'm asking how cold-hardy (or, alternatively, how frost-tender) are Swiss chard (yes, I know it's beets) and garden-variety spinach? To what low temperatures do they survive short-duration exposure?. I have available bed space, thanks to a recent cold spell (first frost 1-3-12), and the Keeper of the Brain desires greater variety of fresh "greens"; not lettuce. On 1-3, we had a few hours below freezing and about 20 minutes of 20 dg (F) in the garden. Collards, mustard greens, turnips survived uncovered but they were not undamaged. I expect a few more episodes of below-freezing overnight lows between now and March but temps in the 20's are unusual. I never have grown chard or spinach but expect they'll last until late May or early June just as other "spring" greens do. I'd like to direct-seed them as early as is reasonable.     These folks finally have access to an automated NWS weather station in nearest "town". The data collection point is 3.5 miles distant. http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?refer=&s4980&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida-United-States-of-America&refer=&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida
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Derald
FL USDA zone 9a
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Here in the Missouri Ozarks we do get really cold spells in winter, but I have been able to keep the tenderest of greens alive by covering them on the coldest nights by covering them with dry leaves gathered in the fall. I move the leaves off the greens as soon as the temp goes to 33 F. The colder the forecast, the deeper the leaves.
Straw would work equally well and I would use it if it were more common in the area, but there is no real agriculture here, the soil is too thin and rocky for the most part.
My guess is that uncovered, more than an hour or so of a hard freeze would hurt chard and spinach. I've had kale and various Chinese greens survive short periods of hard freezing. Turnip greens work well too; I pick the largest leaves before a hard freeze and cover the smaller ones. It's cool because as you pick the leaves, more of them appear.
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Derald wrote:

http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?refer=&s4980&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida-United-States-of-America&refer=&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida
They both deal with a heavy frost of about -7C (20F) on the ground quite well and I don't cover them at all. I cannot speak from experience on colder than that or cases where it doesn't warm up above freezing within a couple of hours after sunrise.
David
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http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?refer=&s4980&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida-United-States-of-America&refer=&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida
Here in western NC I had mid teens last winter in December and January. The spinach looked dead, but I was picking again by the 3rd week of February. With some protection in your area you should always have spinach. Steve
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-9C
(yes, I know it's beets) and

http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?refer=&s4980&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida-United-States-of-America&refer=&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida
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wrote:

It'll survie at that low temp, but don't expect to crop as well. The very small new silver beet/chard leaves are superb in salads - a really good substitute for lettuce
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