Germination. Although the snow has taken a serious beating as of late, my north garage bed that in the past has provided for copious greens is still under about 2′ of snow. But in the cold frames, life has begun. Arugula [seen left], radish [bottom], spinach, and the mesclun and ‘greens’ mixes are showing their faces. Not a great accomplishment in most climates, I reckon, but it is here. My dad was by today and figures his rural garden will have snow on it until well into May.
Now normally, I’m a spreadsheet geek, and pre-children would have had daily data on my cold frame temps, etc. Yeah, not going to happen right now [for those that don’t know, I have a baby boy as of last Thursday!]. But what I can offer is that the evidence below shows the cold frame at 16.4C under cloud when the ambient outdoor temp is 8C. An 8C difference is pretty important when the inevitable nasty cold and snow returns for a late spring reminder of winter nastiness. My little plants will be protected, both from the cold, and more importantly [I’ve read], from the wind and snow and ice that really does the damage. I took a quick look at it under direct sun 11C outdoor temp, and had to look twice: 42C. Clearly, I have to mind my manners in sunny weather, or cook my plants.
I’ve been asked if I’ll insulate or heat these things. At this time, the answer’s no. The varieties I’ve committed to them are all very cold hardy. I’m not trying to or interested in pushing my luck with stuff marginal to our growing zone – I just want to eat the cold hardy stuff [of which there are many] way earlier and later in the shoulder seasons than I’ve grown up thinking was possible.
Last note: my seedlings sown in March have been transplanted into the cold frames, and are faring easily through the overnight outdoor freezes. More on those little guys soon.
I cannot believe it! Amazing. How long does the celeriac and celery take to germinate – I did mine a week after yours and they are still not up. Leeks are doing great… chives are up and so are some lettuces… but not these.
This is a fantastic coup!
Congrats on the new baby boy!!! How exciting! I’m very interested in your cold frame and I’m thinking next year I will pursue this further in my outdoor garden. Did you have the cold frame up all year, or put it up when the snow melted? I got my greenhouse up last June, so this is the first year I’ll be able to put plants out there to extend the season. I mostly use it for tomatoes and cucumbers, but I’m thinking I could stick some lettuce and other cold hardy greens out there earlier. I’m aiming for getting the tomatoes out there May surrounded by gallon jugs of water, which is a month before my date of last frost. I’m really not sure how well this will work. We are getting to the 40’s during the day and lows are still in the single digits. I went out there this weekend, and the ground is frozen solid still.
Valerie: celery and celeriac are painfully slow to germinate. Keep waiting.
HA – thanks! I built the cold frames a few weeks ago – moved some snow in one case to get it built in its spot. I’m hoping to have even more success pushing the season next spring with it already in place. If you have a greenhouse, what a great opportunity to push your seasons! May’s a month before your last frost date? Ouch. I thought we had it bad.
Congratulations and welcome to the new little one. How exciting to see those new arrivals (both types of sprouts)! Enjoy!!
Saw in the new Lee Valley catalogue a mechanical arm for cold frames: it expands and contracts with temperature and so when it gets super hot in the cold frame, it will open the top glass, as it cools it closes. Have you tried one of these? I gotta admit I’m a big fan of gadgets (that sometimes are miraculous- and occasionally desperately disappointing!). Congrats on the baby!
Congrats on the new baby, and well done for still being able to keep up with the garden stuff and blog at the same time, in my experience new dads are often too busy/sleep deprived to remember there even is a garden out there…! kathy
Congrats on the newest little gardener! It’s funny how the spread sheets disappear when something more important shows up :)
We’re in transition here – hoophouse not done yet, existing on last years kale and radish greens, and relishing the first nettles and claytonia in the woods.
Thanks for the info. I think maybe I’ll try getting a cold frame together by fall so it can be in place before the snow flies and see if we can’t get a little jump with come cold hardy plants next spring. The greenhouse is ranging from 19-59 right now. I’m experimenting with putting jugs of water in there (lots of them!) and maybe plastic sheeting like a greenhouse in a greenhouse to see if I can’t boost it a bit warmer. We’ll see….
Kevin: Are you able to record your overnight low temperatures inside the cold frame? I’m very curious how cold it gets in there compared with the outdoor temperature (with and without snow cover).
The main reason I haven’t attempted a sealed off cold frame yet is the issue with overheating in the afternoons since I am at work during these times. The Lee Valley contraption (to open and close vent based on heat) mentioned above sounds like an interesting idea to check out (thanks Carissa for this tip). Here is a link to the product:
JZ – thanks!
Carissa – I’ve seen those arms for sale, but don’t think I’ll go there. At least for now. One arm would cost more than 2-3 cold frames, which just seems wrong. Ask me again when I’ve cooked my first batch of seedlings on a sunny day…
KD – Ah yes, I’m no longer a ‘new dad’. This was child #3. I’m good on sleep, a little short on time, but activities conducive to staying close to home tend to be manageable for me. It’s those away from home that largely get axed.
TTC – my nettles are still under 2′ of snow, so you’re quite a ways ahead of me on that front!
HA – I’d be curious to hear about your experiences with cold frames given your greenhouse experience. I think both come with their own pros and cons.
CGA – Yes, I am able to, but haven’t been. I have remote thermometers that live in my cellars can show max/min. I’ll go toss one in there again, as I’m curious how it will fare during the -9C in the forecast.