Mother Earth News Fair

Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

Add to My MSN

The Amazing Cold Frame

1/23/2013 2:17:33 PM

Tags: Seven Springs 2012, Guest Post, Organic Gardening, Niki Jabbour

If I could only pick one season extending structure for a home vegetable garden, it would be a cold frame. Incredibly versatile, a simple cold frame is the key to taking your garden from a two or three-season plot and turning it into a year round vegetable factory. They are easy and inexpensive to build and can be constructed from simple, often recycled materials like scrap wood, straw bales, bricks and old windows.

Niki Jabbour Cold FrameAt its most basic, a cold frame is simply a box with a clear or translucent top. Its purpose is to trap solar energy from the sun and provide protection from the outside elements – cold temperatures, rain, wind and snow. The back of the box is typically taller than the front, which lets the top of the cold frame sit at an angle. This slope allows maximum sunlight to enter the structure and will help it shed excess rain and snow.

In our frames, the first seeding of the year begins in mid to late February when the harshest part of winter has passed and the amount of daylight is steadily increasing. At this time, I seed any empty areas of the frames with hardy crops like green onions, carrots, beets, spinach, arugula, tatsoi, endive and mache. I like to give the soil a boost before sowing, but in mid-winter, the compost pile is frozen solid. Therefore, I rely on vermicompost, which I buy in small bags from a local worm farmer and keep indoors where it won’t freeze.

As the weeks progress into March and spring beckons, more cold and cool tolerant veggies are seeded into the shelter of the frames – hardy lettuces, pak choi and mizuna for example. All of these plantings will provide gourmet salads just in time for Easter!

Niki Jabbour Spinach We continue to harvest through April and May and once the early spring veggies are done, the cold frames are taken out of production for two months. June and July are allocated for soil building, where we incorporate generous amounts of chopped leaves and compost into the earth – I like to add 3 to 4 inches of our homemade compost. It’s also rich in worms, which happily break down the shredded leaves. If the soil pH has dropped, I add powdered lime. If you don’t have compost, sow a cover crop in your cold frames, digging it under a few weeks before you intend to plant.

By late July and early August, it’s time to start thinking about fall and winter crops and I begin the process by transplanting pencil-thick leek seedlings at the back of one of the frames. The winter carrots are also seeded in late July. They’re a true cold season treat and as the temperatures drop in late autumn, the long roots get sweeter and sweeter. In early December, I’ll add a 6-inch layer of straw or shredded leaves to the carrot frames to further insulate the crop.

Niki Jabbour SeedlingsAs August marches on, I make sure that I have enough seed for all the hardy salad crops that we like to grow. If not, a last-minute order goes out to our favorite seed companies. Late August and early September is seeding season for winter lettuces, mache, claytonia, endive, tatsoi, pak choi, spinach, Swiss chard, green onions and more. Even herbs like thyme and parsley do extremely well in a winter cold frame and I move a few plants into the corners of the structures in early September. To get around the hot temperatures of August and September that can inhibit germination, I will start many of my salad crops indoors under my grow lights, moving them into the garden once they’re a few inches tall.

At the end of September, all the crops for fall and winter have been seeded or transplanted into our cold frames and from December until the following May, they’ll provide us with the sights, scents and flavors of spring each time we lift the covers to harvest.  

Niki Jabbour presented workshops at the Seven Springs, Pa. MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages. 



Related Content

The Green Fork in the Road

Green living is similar to taking yoga. It is a ‘practice’ – the more you get into, the more there i...

Growing Organic Apples

Growing organic apples isn’t impossible! Follow these tips and methods for avoiding pest damage and ...

Aquaponic Gardening: Growing Fish and Vegetables Together

What if I told you that you could catch fish for dinner right in your own backyard, and they were gr...

Live the Homesteading Dream

Like Thoreau and the Nearings, we feel more alive and participative in the natural world around us o...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 

jennahw
1/29/2013 2:08:58 PM
what zone are you?







Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.