Off Grid and Free: Our First Salad of the Year

| 4/29/2016 10:46:00 AM

Although temperatures have been unfavorable for the outdoor garden, we have the makings for our first salads well underway. Being north of 56 degrees latitude and with the potential for frost any month of the year, we've had to adapt and take extra measures if we are to provide for our vegetable needs.

An example of this is how we are able to pick our first greens before the snow is off the ground. Preparations actually begin in late fall when cold frames are placed in the greenhouse after the last of summer's plants are removed, creating sort of a greenhouse within a greenhouse.Cold Frame in Greenhouse

Our cold frames are simple 4 sided plywood boxes with hinged windows on top which can be opened and closed as needed. The following is a short book excerpt from Off Grid and Free:My Path to the Wilderness.

We have a south-facing greenhouse that becomes home to melons, tomatoes, and peppers in late spring. But before they are planted, with snow still on the ground, we sow the seeds of salad fixings to satisfy our hankering for fresh greens after a long winter’s dearth of lettuce and radishes.

Cold frames, which we set in the greenhouse, act as a sort of greenhouse within a greenhouse. A cold frame is a box with clear lid (glass or plastic), a setup that gives protection to early plantings of lettuce, kale, onions, and radishes, even when temperatures are still going down to 0°F at night.

The sun has considerable heat by this time of the year due to its higher angle in the sky so, even on cold days, the greenhouse warms up substantially. It may even need to be vented on a sunny afternoon to prevent it from getting too hot. To protect the young seedlings from the cold night, we place recycled gallon milk jugs filled with hot water in the cold frames. We ensure that the cold frame lid is closed, and then lay a heavy blanket over the box. This procedure keeps things in the box from freezing. Because of these efforts, we will enjoy our first salads while snow is still on the ground.

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