Tag Archives: salad greens

Cold Frame – Spring

Early Start

I finally had a chance to do something in the garden.  My spring itch has subsided a little bit once I had the chance to get my hands dirty.   The garden is still covered with a foot or so of snow that is slowly melting away.  We made a path to the bird feeder a few weeks ago and today I made an extension path to the vegetable garden.

I opened up the cold frame for the first time today.  It has been closed up for the last three months.  I had good intensions to grow and harvest vegetables in winter but I couldn’t get access to it.  With three feet of snow covering the vegetable garden and temperatures that dropped to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes double digits below, I didn’t expect to see anything alive in there.  I also haven’t been able to water inside since I closed it up.

This is what our cold frame looked like in winter.  Snow covered up to half of the frame.
This is what our cold frame looked like in winter. Snow covered up to half of the frame.

The temperature was hovering around 40 degree and I managed to dig my way there so it’s a good day to check the inside.  As soon as I pulled the tape off and opened the plastic ‘door’, I could feel the heat rushing out.  To my surprise, there were some red lettuces, mustard greens ‘Dragon tongue’, Mizuna, Red Russian Kale, Swiss chard and some carrots that survived the ordeal.  Not in such a good shape though.  These are the ones that made it through winter as seedlings and now they are not much bigger.  There are also some new seedlings that sprouted up.  I have no idea what they are.  My best guess is either Broccoli Raab or Pak Choi.

The survivors: Mustard green 'Dragon tongue', Mizuna, Swiss chard 'Ruby red'.  A lot of their leaves have dried up
The survivors: Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’, Mizuna, Swiss chard ‘Ruby red’. A lot of their leaves have dried up. Even without watering for the last three months, the soil in side is still moist.
As much as their leaves look very fragile, this red leaf lettuce pulled through.
As much as their leaves look very fragile, this red leaf lettuce pulled through.
I pulled one of this Mustard green 'Dragon tongue' and tasted it.  It was surprisingly sweeter than in summer.
I pulled one of this Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ and tasted it. It was surprisingly sweeter than in summer.

I took my time cleaning up inside the cold frame; pulling up the dead, clipping off dry and rotten leaves, and pulling up weeds and moss.  Then I put new seeds in.  The day time temperatures are still around 30 and 40 degrees fahrenheit and at night will drop down ten points or more most of the time.  However, the temperature inside the cold frame is much warmer because of the heat trapped inside.  So, this is a good time to put seeds in to get a head start for salad and transplanting later on.

I’m happy and satisfied getting my hands dirty.  In two to three weeks, we will have baby greens for salad.  The vegetables that survive the winter will also be big enough to harvest for soup and stir-fry.

After cleaning up, sowing new seeds and watering.
After cleaning up, sowing new seeds and watering.
Ready to close up again.  See you in a couple of weeks or when the weather allows.
Ready to close up again. See you in a couple of weeks or when the weather allows.

By the time we finish with the greens, the temperature outside should be warm enough to transplant Swiss chard and kale to their permanent spots.  The following are the seeds I put in, most of them do well in cooler temperatures.

  • Lettuce: Green Oakleaf, Danyelle (red leaf), Black Seeded Simpson
  • Swiss chard: Fordhook giant, Ruby red
  • Kale: Red Russian, Nero Di Toscana
  • Radish: French breakfast, Sparkler white tip, Red meat
  • Edible Chrysanthemum (Shungiku or Tang Oh): Round leaf, Serrated leaf
  • Chinese broccoli
  • Pac choi:  Green, Red choi
  • Komatsuna
  • Arugula ‘Astro’
  • Carrot ‘Short ‘n Sweet’
  • Mesclun (arugula, red Russian kale, endive, chervil, Raddichio, red romaine, and Bibb)

New Vegetables This Year

Edible Chrysanthemum

I’ve been thinking of growing Edible Chrysanthemum for years but have never gotten around to it until this year.  Either it was too early or too late in the growing season to sow the seeds, or I ran out of space.  This spring was too cold to grow a lot of leafy vegetables so I decided to sow chrysanthemum since it loves cool weather.  One package was a couple of years old (the oval leaf) but has sprouted anyway albeit a bit slowly.  The freshly purchased this year (serrated-leaf) sprouted up really fast though.

Edible Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium) aka Tang Ho (Chinese), Shungiku (Japanese), Tang Oh (Thai), Kelsang (Tibetan) is an edible green that can be eaten raw or cooked.  It tastes similar to spinach but has a stronger flavor.  The most common uses are in soup, stir-fry and in salad.  I don’t really know how many varieties there are in total but I grow two different kinds; the smooth oval leaf and the serrated-leaf.  The taste is not much different between them.

It can be direct sown in the ground once the frost has passed.  I sow them in rows like spinach and thin them when they get around 1.5 inches tall and use them in salads.  The whole plant can be pulled out or just cut above the leaf node and it will grow back between the leaves.  When the temperature gets too hot, I cover them with a net to filter out some of the sunlight to prolong their life span.  As much as they don’t like hot weather, covering them with a net really helps.  I also let some of them flower for the bees and to provide seeds for next year.

I no longer have to go to Chinatown to get an expensive, wilted bunch when I have a craving for them.  But I will have to pull them out once their flowers have matured and sow another set for a fall harvest.

Edible chrysanthemum are as easy to grow as other greens and their flowers are pretty too.

Rows of serrated-leaf Edible Chrysanthemum
Rows of serrated-leaf Edible Chrysanthemum
Oval-leaf Edible Chrysanthemum
Oval-leaf Edible Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum leaves
Chrysanthemum leaves
New leaves sprout up below the cut
New leaves sprout up below the cut
Flowers for seeds next year
Flowers for seeds next year
Flower up close, looks like a miniature sunflower
Flower up close, looks like a miniature sunflower