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Cold Frames: Good Soil Defrosters

04.01.11

I’ve never been so happy to see an earth worm. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been wondering whether or not my cold frames were actually achieving anything. I had considered whether or not I was simply containing the latent cold in the frozen soil, and that they’d be better uncovered. Not so.

The photo below shows where the cold frame sat before I removed it to work the soil. Where it had sat, the soil was workable with a fork. There were earthworms all over, which highly entertained my two-year old daughter. Where it had not been, the ground is frozen solid, and can’t get a fork in at all. I could finally conclude that the cold frames had achieved a first measure of success. While my garden generally has 2-4′ of snow atop it still, I can already work with wriggly earth worms and seeds and actual soil.

This should get me off to an earlier start than normal. My indoor seedlings of greens and other cold-hardy veg should soon be getting a test-ride in the protection of the cold frames. I’m also going to seed some items [mache, spinach, claytonia, wild rocket, etc] in the coming days to see how they do. If we’re eating baby greens in mid-April as I suspect we may be, it will be a full month ahead of the May-long-weekend we’re accustomed to. And with root veg in the cellar still [and especially considering this has been a very late spring], this makes me a very, very happy guy.

8 Responses

  1. Kasia says:

    Kevin, what direction is that spot where you have the cold-frame facing?

  2. The one in the photo faces west. I also have built a bigger one facing due south on a different side of the house. I thought the south-facing one would defrost first, but not the case. Close though – a few days difference, I’m guessing.

  3. Kirsten says:

    Cold frames are on my to-do list for the garden this year. I procrastinated about it last year and now, oh how I wish I hadn’t!

  4. Good idea. Never thought to set up my cold frame this early. Makes total sense. Yeah. I can have even earlier lettuces and herbs.

  5. WOnderful. I was actually thinking of the “hole” animals today – as the snow melts, they will all be flooded! I cannot find any more indoor planting trayss… indoor ones now. Superstore is out. Canadian tire it out. I have the seeds… so this is high on my list as I thought I would find them today.
    :)
    Valerie

  6. Mike says:

    Very nice, we tend more towards low row covers than cold frames but the results are similar. Good luck with your planting, a full month head start is pretty darn good.

  7. Thanks for the reminder about the cold frame. Your post just sparked a new idea (for me) to use some cinder-crete blocks in addition to old windows I have laying around to build a low-tech cold frame with some thermal mass.

    Keep us posted on how the early start experiment goes. The trick is to protect from the cold snaps at night. Do you plan to cover with blanket at nights, or on particularly cold nights at least? What temperature cut-off is “safe” to omit blanket in your case?

    Two years ago I used a 60 W light bulb and blanket over the old windows to keep the cold frame warm after we went below zero in June with tomatoes in the garden:

    http://calgary-gardening-adventures.blogspot.com/2009/05/tomato-transplant-cold-frame-2.html

    The tomatoes survived, though looked a little rough for wear in the short term.

  8. CGA – the varieties I’m planting now are all very cold hardy, so I’m not too worried about frost. I can see things like tomatoes needing even more care.

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