Mastering Cold Frame production takes more than enthusiasm for food gardening to produce a winter crop.
A friend built me two cold frames in early autumn.
The resulting excitement over the newest project exceeded my knowledge of how to plan a winter garden. Having mislaid the copy of “How To….” by Island garden guru Linda Gilkeson it was necessary to fall back on my own resources. So, the planting began in early September and I chose kale, collards and cabbages. It was a very warm month and by early October the plants had shot up to three feet in height with unusually broad leaves…green veggies on steroids. By December they were pressing against the glass roofs of the cold frames.
None of the plants really developed into recognizable vegetables, just lots of deep green leaves. The next months have been spent giving away bundles of crisp garden produce to anyone who comes by to peer at my monster plants. Determined not to waste any of this crop I have relied on my signature dish of chiffonaded greens, seasoned with ginger and garlic. Every meal served with a steaming heap of unidentified glistening greens has been a pleasure. What’’s been gleaned from this experience is that the amount of fertilizer should be reduced and the glass roofs removed in the heat of day. A greenhouse thermometer might also be a good idea!
This season the cold frames, which are built on top of my raised beds, are being cleared of the winter’s stubble, refertilized lightly and planted with cool season veggies. These are starter plants such as spinach, lettuce, arugula, baby bok choy and green onions purchased at the nursery. That will keep me supplied with some salad greens until it’s time to replant with the traditional summer fare. The two cold frames are a humble collection of discarded wooden posts, scavenged storm windows with a skirting of greenhouse quality plastic. The only expense was the skirting. Each pane is independent so all one needs is to lift up the pane in order to gather whatever one needs for the meal.
I have a very small greenhouse and summer season plants can be started there and will be ready for transplanting in early June. My goal is to succeed as a year round gardener and to share this enthralling experience with emerging gardeners who read this column.
Did You Know that Communities In Bloom members, supported by parks staff are organizing two Broom Bash work parties for Saturday, April 13 and Saturday, April 27. Watch The Mirror for the announcement of times and locations.
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