Thursday, March 7, 2013

What's Growing Under the Cold Frame?

A couple of years ago, I planted some spinach seeds in August for a fresh fall crop.  For who knows what reason, the seeds didn't germinate and I got no fresh spinach that fall.  But when spring came, so did the spinach!  The seeds had lain there all winter and when the conditions were right, they germinated and grew.

Spinach is actually pretty tough.  We've had years where I planted it in spring, I cut it all through summer and fall, and it continued to grow through winter.  Only the coldest temperatures that our winter throws at it will kill it.

Spinach in snow - Winter 2011/2012

This year, I decided to try something else. I'd been eyeing a cold frame at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply for a little while and finally made the purchase last fall.  The kind folks at Peaceful Valley were a big help in advising me as to which cold frame would best suit my needs.  I decided on this one because it has a little more real estate than a similar model.  If I'd been putting the cold frame up against a building, I would have gone with the other one.

A mild late fall and winter and a little procrastination meant we didn't get it put together until December. Though all those pieces looks a little scary, it was very easy to assemble.


I lightly cultivated an area in the garden and placed the cold frame over that.  In mid-January, I sprinkled some spinach seeds over the soil under half of the cold frame and that was that.  I figured that just like a couple of years ago, they would come up when they were good and ready.

Spinach seeds were sown on January 12, 2013.

We had some snow and some cold and some sunny days, and while I didn't really think I'd see anything going on under there until maybe late in March, on February 18th, I opened the top of the cold frame and saw this:

Spinach seedlings under the cold frame on February 18th.

No, the seedlings won't grow as quickly as they would in their normal season, but we'll be eating fresh spinach salads when many other gardeners are just thinking about what they're going to plant.

There's spinach growing in that cold frame!
March 6, 2013

As far as the cold frame is concerned, it was a little lighter weight than I expected - it's made with aluminum framing and double-walled polycarbonate glazing - and on a couple of extremely windy days, one of the lids blew off, but there are clips you can put on to prevent that.  Oops - we forgot to use those.

I also purchased an automatic vent opener because past history of using a cold frame has taught me that I cannot be relied upon to open the top a little on those early sunny days and I've cooked the plants inside.  Likewise, forgetting to close it again on cold nights meant dead plants, too.  We ("we" would mean "Romie") haven't installed the vent opener yet, but it needs to be done soon.  Spring, with its warmer, sunnier days, is right around the corner.


Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

Oh how fun. Seeing anything at all growing a this time of year brings me great delight. I've never tried a cold frame before. I guess I never even thought about just cultivating right underneath it.

Leslie said...

I love that you admitting to not remembering to open/close the vent and were graced with fried or frozen plants. My garden can not count on me to remember to provide that kind of TLC!

Christys Cottage Wildlife Garden said...

Love the story about your spinach! The cold frame looks to be working like a charm. Enjoy those spinach salads (and maybe one of my favorites, creamed spinach!)

Unknown said...

You've just gotta love seed. I'll just wait and germinate when I'm ready thanks!

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