It’s the beginning of the new year and a time when most gardens are sleeping under a mantle of snow, unless you’re into winter growing, which is a skill in itself and I recommend it highly. If you enjoy organic greens throughout the year, growing in cold frames may be an excellent project for you to think about. At the moment I’m cultivating 3 small cold frames and 1 large one (4×8’) filled with all types of greenery, which keeps my wife and I from buying greens throughout the winter months. In addition to garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, beets and carrots, which have been stored, there are also onions, peppers, escarole, Swiss chard, kale and collards in the freezer. If you’re not doing some type of gardening during the winter months, and live in a cold climate like the Northeast, it means that your garden is only being utilized less than ⅔ of the time, from March to October. Make a new year’s resolution and give winter gardening a try this year to see how simple it is.
My cold frames have fared well do far, but my 3 row covered raised beds suffered some frost damage, mainly the more tender lettuce. Beets, carrots, endive, escarole, mache and radicchio weren’t affected to a great extent, although when the temperature dips to the teens within the next couple of nights, I’m sure it will cause some casualties. The cold frames will be able to stand single digits, and if it gets down to zero, they’ll be covered with a layer of discarded carpet padding or a 100 watt clear bulb during nighttime and remove at sunup. For a continuous crop, sprout your seeds indoors, get them to a decent size, and transplant into the cold frame. Water every week or so, and enjoy fresh organic greens until your spring crop arrives.
Buon Anno a tutti,
Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian