Garden Greens…in January

KevinCold Frames, From the Garden, Shoulder Season Gardening, Vegetables, Winter Veg5 Comments

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting. Back when building and planting cold frames I had written numerous times how I’d like to see a harvest from them in December. I thought that might be bold. I wondered if I’d have to eat my words. Then in early December, as my garden fork bounced off the frozen soil nearby, it slipped easily into the soil protected by the cold frame, and I dug up some carrots. Mission accomplished. But it didn’t end there.

In this strange spell of warm January weather, when I’d long accounted the arugula and spinach in the cold frames for dead, I noticed that amongst the mature leaves that had clearly been beaten by the cold, younger leaves had emerged, or better survived, or something – whatever the case, what you see in the photo was harvested January 6. This is a deal changer for me. My ‘dream date’ of December harvest has now been moved into January. And with new plants about to be seeded to be transplanted into the cold frames [I’m hoping in February], the gap of non-gardening season is awfully narrower than I had suspected – all without having to use fossil fuels to heat a greenhouse. I suppose that’s the kicker. If it’s a non-energy consumptive solution to growing more of our own fresh, extremely inexpensive, organic food, the cold frame seems like a rudimentary technology that needs some major revisiting, and a serious pat on the back.

5 Comments on “Garden Greens…in January”

  1. Bob in Edmonton

    Awesome work. As I’ve looked at my cold frame this past week, I have been wondering about planting myself. It is going to 8 today and I wonder what might grow! I’m keen to try an early March transplant of kale myself. Need me some kale chips!

  2. Michelle

    My husband is building cold frames for us to use this year. How soon do you need to start seeding. And he’s planning to do herbs and greens, so any cut off time? Thanks Kevin (my husband’s called Kevin too :-))

  3. MarkS-A

    I have been eyeing those shrink-wrapped pavillions at Metropolis wondering if I could “cold-frame” my entire back yard! (apologies for using a noun as a verb) Are you using anything within the frames as a heat sink? I have thought about tiling the inside of the frame – would that would raise the daytime temperature too much? I hope you will give workshops on some of these topics.

  4. Kevin

    Bob – these guys were survivors of a Sept seed/October crop. Not sure things would germinate now, but it certainly begs the question of getting some stuff started inside for early transplant.
    Michelle – greens he could try early. No cut-off time, as you can grow in them all year. Last year I built mine first week of April. Wish I had them earlier….as in mid-February to start defrosting soil and I could have been planting earlier. I suppose optimal is to have them in place in the fall!
    MSA – Haha. Cool idea. No heat sink. Since there are times when it can get too hot – and at a whim with a change in weather – I can’t think of something that would make sense. If you can, let me know! Workshops, unlikely, videos, yes.

  5. Judy Z

    I think the heat sink idea is a great one. It should actually help to moderate the temperatures on the super hot days by absorbing the heat. Your heat sink could be as simple as a rock or a two liter plastic bottle filled with water. The water would be like the effect of a lake having a moderating effect on the weather.. It would be interesting to test it out. You don’t have two cold frames exactly the same so you can do a controlled study by any chance. I think the theory is that the rock or water absorbs heat during the day and then radiates it back to your frame at night when the temperatures drop.

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