We installed a cold frame in our vegetable garden in order to have some fresh vegetables in winter. We did get some cold loving vegetables like Chinese Broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, carrots and mustard greens. Several times the vegetables inside wilted from the cold when we couldn’t get access. In the middle of winter when snow piled two feet up the frame, we couldn’t get the door open without a lot of digging. But it still gave us a good head start for spring vegetables and we get to have fresh vegetables early in the season despite the seesaw weather.
The seeds I sow in November like spinach, Bok choi and mustard greens, sprouted early and became our first salad crops.
Then I sow more cool weather vegetables like Mizuna, Shungiku (Tang Oh), Chinese broccoli, Corn salad, arugula and more of spinach and mustard greens in March when I got access to the inside. These will become our second crop.
Since the cold frame has no ventilation, early spring is when we have to be careful. We need to leave the door open on hot days otherwise the vegetables in there will be cooked. I devote this patch under the cold frame for growing leafy vegetables because it provides shade during the summer months. Once the plastic is cover removed, I grow Bitter melon and beans and let them climb up the frame as they provide shade for the vegetables below.
With a couple days of heavy rain other vegetables in the garden double their size. Asparagus shot up a few inches a day with rain. We were supposed to cut them when they reached six inches high but…
After it was fed and with plenty of rain, our garlic, both Siberian and Rocambol garlic, got much bigger very fast. We had a good garlic crop last year and still have some left in the basement. So far this year should be good too.
It’s mid-June but some night’s the temperature still drops to the mid 50º F and with a cool wind blowing during the day, it feels more like late winter than late spring. Roses love this weather, a combination of cool dry days with some rain in between. Except when the rain pours down so hard that everything droops and petals are knocked to the ground.
Not much else wants to grow in the vegetable garden either. Tomato, chili peppers, beans, bitter melon and basil grow at a slower pace. The good thing is there are no black spots or mildew in sight, even with heavy rain. I guess it has been too cold for these tiny life forms to grow.
Cooler weather, however, is good for the leafy greens like lettuce, pac choi, mustard green, arugula, edible chrysanthemum, and broccoli. They retain their sweetness longer and are not quick to bolt. I still cover them with a net to block out the midday sun. Herbs love this weather too. I couldn’t cut them fast enough. July may be different so I’m taking advantage by picking greens and herbs when I still can.
After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden. As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in. The arugula is always the first to come up.
I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly. I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them. I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels. The roots will sprout out in two nights. I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them. I don’t have to worry about hardening them. If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now. I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.
Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up. Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy. I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad). I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend. Garlic is looking lovely at this time too. I have already fed them once.
Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again. They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet. I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.
Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.