Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cold Frame

Last month I did a lot of garden clean up and started the cold frames.   It is one of the great ironies of life out here that we are desperate for organic matter to break up our clay so that we can actually grow vegetables, but that very organic matter is host to all sorts of bad bugs that destroy our vegetables.

Like squash bugs.   I hate those.  

They overwinter in the same straw that we use all summer to mulch with.    That mulch that we need so desperately to improve our soil.  

Just another example of how Life Isn't Fair.  

Luckily, we knew that already.   I mean if life were fair, would we have had to endure bell-bottoms?   Twice??  

I don't think so.

So, as the only way to cut down on the squash bugs is to burn up the garden debris at the end of the season, that's what I do.    I pile all the old vines and plants into the center and burn them.

It's never as easy as I think it will be.   This year, it rained.   The center stayed wet.   The vines weren't completely dry.  It wouldn't burn.  

So, we spread stuff out and let it dry some more, then threw some logs on the thing so it would get good and hot, which totally worked because once I got that lit, it stayed hot for two days.  

Two.  Days.  And burned everything to a nice fine ash, which I shoveled out in prep for the second cold frame.   After digging things around and mixing up the soil, we're good to go. 

I do surround the cold frame with straw bales.  They get wet, and as they decompose, they generate enough heat to keep greens growing all winter, even when it gets down below zero.   We're in zone 4 here and I highly recommend this way of winter gardening.  

In the first bed, I planted arugula, radishes [and I remembered to plant them far enough apart that they'll actually grow radishes], cilantro and fennel.    Turns out fennel loves cool.   It really took off at the end of the season and I just transplanted in the cold frame for the winter.   We'll eat it in a few weeks and then I'll plant some more.   Mmmm.   I transplanted some parsley to the edges and  I also planted a few rows of Egyptian walking onions to the side of the cold frame and some kale in front.   The onions are cluster onions and they'll grow all winter.   The kale much prefers being outside the cold frame to being in it.   If it gets scary cold, then they're close enough for me to cover everything in plastic  for a few days of extra protection.  

In the second bed, I planted leeks, and some Siamese Dragon greens that I got from Baker Creek.   It's hardier lettuce and greens with nice kick - mustard, etc.   Also, more arugula.   Can't have enough arugula! 


  1. Crack me up with your bell bottoms remark! Ain't that the truth? ;D

    What variety of arugula did you grow? I love arugula but hubby doesn't. This year, he grew some for me, but it's much stronger than some and if I hope to get any more, we need to find a slightly milder variety.

  2. I would like to know what variety of arugula you use also. I've had some that I like but the one we grew a couple of seasons ago was very hot! Way too hot for my husband. And Robin, do you put windows on the top of the bales?

    1. I put a big glass door on top of one of the cold frames and then cover it all with plastic. I just use a double layer of plastic over some 2x4s for the other frame since we don't have another window.

  3. Here's the arugula I've been planting. http://rareseeds.com/arugula.html It varies in heat according to the weather, etc. I can't predict whether it will be mild or not. I like it mild or hot.


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