Sophomore Gardener: Using a coldframe for the first time

Posted on: December 30, 2019 | Written By: Mike Palm | Comments


Note: With the guidance of editor Doug Oster, Mike Palm is chronicling his adventures (or perhaps misadventures) in his second year of gardening.

At the suggestion of Doug, I decided to continue my gardening into the winter with a coldframe. He helped out with sourcing a giant piece of glass for the roof from Hal’s Bottle Shop in Ross. It’s thick and heavy … thankfully I had a 13-year-old to help out with the muscle when I got home with it.

Doug supplied me with some spinach and arugula from end-of-the-season flats he picked up at a bargain price. Those were put in the ground in the late fall, in spots still open while I had Mexican sunflowers and zinnias in bloom. When a frost wiped those flowers out, I went about constructing the cold frame around the spinach and left the arugula in the other raised bed.

Straw bales make up two of the sides, and pieces of an old desk make up the other two sides. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is working. I added a mizuna plant, too, but that hasn’t done too great. Everything’s still alive, even after several light snowfalls, thanks to the coldframe.

Doug says: It’s exciting to see a coldframe set up in someone’s garden that’s so new to the hobby. It’s fun to have things growing outdoors during the winter and if they survive (there’s a great chance they will), those plants will go crazy in the spring. One advantage to overwintering is that when the soil might be too wet to work, these plants are ready to go. You might even get a winter salad!

I left the arugula unprotected for most of the fall, and it seemed to do fine. When we finally had temperatures drop into the teens, I made a last-ditch effort to give it some protection. Since I procrastinated, I had to do it while it was snowing, in the dark after I got home from work. Using the flashlight on my phone, I used a clear dry cleaner’s bag to make a mini greenhouse. It’s held in place by several landscaper pins and broken twigs. (That was all I could find on hand out in the garden in early December!)

Doug says: Well, looks like the student has surpassed the teacher. Your arugula looks better than mine, and my plants are under protection. Your spinach looks better than mine, too. That mizuna doesn’t look too bad; it’s just the old leaves that are struggling. I’d remove them to encourage new growth. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of that Asian green, I love it.

It’s interesting to see how long everything will survive, and it’ll be satisfying to eat something fresh from there in January or February. Next year, I’ll have to find time to build a better coldframe, hopefully when it’s not snowing.


Earlier Sophomore Gardener stories

Aug. 15: Flowers Attract Pollinators To Successful Garden

July 20: Beetles Behaving Badly With My Beans

June 29: Garden Getting Greener Despite 1 Setback

June 10: Year 2 Of Gardening Begins In Earnest

March 16: Getting Ready For A New Season Of Growing

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