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.
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.
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.
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.
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