ANZ's Farms

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cold Frames

Summer is my comfort-zone time for vegetable gardening. I grew up with a summer garden in my back yard, tended expertly by my grandfather. I can remember his coming through the back door at 6 a.m., laden with fresh corn, butter beans (that my sister and I would have to shell before we could go swimming), tomatoes, cucumbers and other delicious vegetables. I didn't have an appreciation for his labor or the smell of the soil at that age, but I know it influenced me nonetheless.

I came back to my roots once I owned a home and had soil to call my own. I planted a vegetable patch each summer, and learned by trial and error since I hadn't paid attention as a child. It was hard as a single career woman. I laugh now when I think about the time I brought home two bales of straw in the tiny back seat of my Mustang convertible. I had to put the top down to even get them in the car! So you can imagine the new heights my gardening achieved when I married Scott. Our first summer garden together was one of the best I ever had. His know-how and work ethic, combined with the benefits of a truck and a big load of composted horse manure, resulted in an incredibly prolific garden.

I'm back to the trial-and-error method of gardening as I expand to cool weather vegetables and cold frames. I am definitely out of my comfort zone, but reading and experimenting help. Lessons learned: 1) Brussel sprouts and broccoli are too tall to put in a cold frame. I'm trying them in the exposed garden this year. 2) Swiss chard is delicious and hardy ... and very colorful. Grow alot of that. I like it fresh in a salad or wilted in a little bacon grease in the skillet. 3) The sun doesn't reach vegetables planted too close to the south side of the cold frame. 4) Don't forget to close the lid at night when freezing temps are expected and don't forget to open it when it is predicted to be an unseasonably warm day. 5) Fresh lettuce from your very own cold frame on Christmas day is reason enough to go to the trouble again next year.

I have two cold frames now, pictured here. In the foreground is the original one I had last season. It is made of treated lumber insulated with styrofoam. The other one Scott built using a storm door from Habitat and a cinder block box to match, with treated lumber scraps to make the angled top. I got the idea for a cinder-block raised bed from Logan's; they have one displayed there. I found the blocks made the soil too hot this summer for the root plants I tried (primarily garlic and onions). I'm hoping the block sides will mean warmer soil this winter, better than the insulated wood sides of the original cold frame. An experiment whose results will come in time.

In the newer cold frame, I have Romaine lettuce planted in September, parsley left over from the summer season, oregano and thyme. This is the first time I have planted perinneal herbs in the cold frame. (I wonder if extending their growing season and not giving them a winter's rest will effect them adversely. We'll see.) In the other cold frame is iceberg lettuce ... and space for something else. I'd better decide soon and get it planted.

No comments:

Post a Comment