Under the Coldframe19/07/2012 13:17
The winds of November are blowing and Old Man Winter is set to have his turn.Even the patience of the elderly has a limit.
In my zone(6/5b)the bulk of the outdoor gardening season has vanished like the beautiful Autumn leaves from the trees but all is not lost.There's still a little gardening to be had under the cold frames.
Some gardeners prefer not to mess around with cold frames but rather take their well deserved rest from their gardening labours.Perhaps a little reluctantly but not so much so that they are willing to set up cold frames to stretch the season a little further.I on the other hand hate to see the season come to a close and frankly I enjoy the challenge of defying Old Man Winter much to his chagrin.
By cold frames,I'm not referring to the pre-fabricated store bought ones nor cold frames with tops operated with automatic openers for the occasional venting.Nor am I as dedicated as some to stretching out the season by using heaters in the cold frames.Not even I am willing to go to those extremes.My cold frames are of the makeshift sort that have been made from scrap lumber and sheets of plastic.They are very light weight,allowing me to set them over the plants and remove them as the weather warrants.Perhaps one could think of them as floating row covers taken up a notch or two in that they will increase the temperature inside them more than the average of 4 degrees that row covers are capable of.The tops have cross pieces to keep the plastic from dipping under heavy rain or snow when it comes and it will.
I tend to grow the vegetables ,I later intend to protect with cold frames,in small blocks rather than rows as it makes them easier and more practical to cover.These include vegetables that are already somewhat cold hardy and are normally planted in early Spring and again in the Late Summer/Fall.Mostly but not limited to,radish,carrots,beets,various lettuce varieties,spinach and other greens like Asian greens.The Asian greens are doing well as they can tolerate a light frost even without protection.Carrots are of course hardy as well and can be kept going for quite some time with a thick mulch but when temperatures reach several degrees below freezing,they can use some extra help.I could extend the season of some warm weather plants as well,such as peppers and herbs but they don't last as long and it's not really practical to cover big or tall plants like tomatoes.
The goal here is to protect the plants from below freezing temperatures and mine have already survived 5 degrees below and can handle quite a bit lower than that with the cold frames.It's surprising how much heat can be trapped in there.In fact,on sunny days even if it's below freezing,I have to watch for over heating.In which case I just vent them a little.I also vent to prevent too much condensation from building up.
With the cold frames,I'm not expecting a lot of vigorous growth at this time of the year but I often do get it with the greens even when it's well below freezing.I'll pick a bunch of leaves for a meal and within a few days new leaves are growing.Not bad for the middle of November in zone 5b/6.
It's such a joy,when tempearatures are well below freezing,to walk out to the garden,brush the snow off the cold frame and reach inside for some nice,fresh still growing vegetables.Perhaps it's something that only a Northern gardener can really appreciate.