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.
Today is ‘officially’ the first day of spring. That’s what it says on the calendar but in reality our garden is still snowed in. The temperature is hovering a little bit above 30°F and there will be more snow coming down tonight and continuing until Wednesday night. We expect a foot of wet snow accumulation added to what we already have on the ground. That’s why I say ‘officiallythe first day of spring on the calendar‘ only.
Plants in the little plot right next to the house have started to come up. Daffodils and irises the previous owner planted next to the garage are sprouting leaves. The Siberian garlic are braving themselves in the cold next to melting snow and will be buried again tonight. But they are Siberian, they should be fine. Rocambole garlic that I’ve been growing for many years are still staying comfortable underground.
Inside the house is another story. Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ that one of my colleagues gave me many years ago welcomed spring with its bright red flowers. Still one more set of flowers from this bulb is just about to bloom. I moved them up from the basement as soon as the flower buds came up.
Hibiscus ‘The Path’ also senses the warmth of spring and welcomes it with a bright yellow flower. I found that the color is paler than when the plant is outside but it’s still beautiful and cheerful as all hibiscus are. I left it in the basement though, since it’s too big to be in the bay window with the other plants.
But, …darn, We’re still waiting for reality spring.
There are still a few feet of snow in the garden and the temperature remains below the freezing point. There’s no sign of spring in sight aside from a few confused American Goldfinches that have started to molt early. We chiseled a path around the house but not much else. House bound, pretty much.
Reading books and plant catalogs keep me busy in winter. With plant and seed catalogs coming in non-stop, they have been keeping me going like a kid in a candy store. With limited space, I will only add one or two new plants a year. Since I started keeping honeybees four years ago, the first reason for selecting a new plant is whether it’s good for the bees and fragrance comes in second.
This winter I found an interesting book while searching for plants for bees; Garden Plants for Honey Beesby PeterLindtner. The great thing about this book is that it provides a variety of plants that bloom month by month, starting from February. The book also provides information on the level of pollen and nectar each plant provides, from (*) as the least and (*****) as the most. So, I keep going back and forth between plant catalogs and this book to make a decision for what to add this spring.
My friend, Andy, has given me an advance copy of The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & PipsConquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human Historyby Thor Hanson. It comes with a package of pea seeds. I’m not sure I will plant them since there is no indication that the seeds are organic. The book is a fun read though. I’ve learned a lot about chili pepper. I’ve been growing a wide variety of chili peppers for years and just realized how little I know about their biology and evolution until I read this book. I also learned that the coffee plant has developed a delicate caffeine balance to repel various types of insects and at the same time lures in pollinators that ‘lined up likemorning commuters at their favorite espresso stand’. It gave me the idea to try using coffee as a natural insecticide in my garden. The book won’t be in stores until April though.
Yes, late winter is the time for me to start seedlings. Side stepped to the subject of books and lost track while I writing this post. I will have to start my tomato and chili pepper seedlings this week otherwise they will not have enough time to mature and bear fruit. I will add Japanese Shishito, a very mild pepper and Indigo Cherry Drops tomato to the vegetable list. A variety of Helleborus will be added to the flower list for early spring flowering for bees. I can hardly wait to get my hands dirty.