Planting Cool Season Rows

This weekend we got our cold frame back in place over the soil we managed to turn last weekend:

As you can see, we added a new frame on the end. We have what seems to me much more than our fair share of blustery days here, and back in December the wind took out more of the old storm windows that we use to cover our cold frames. That incident finally left us with no more back-ups, and one less than we need to cover the whole cold frame. 

For a free fix, Kirk used some scrap wood to build a frame the size of the gap, then stapled some plastic around it. It's not at all pretty, but it should serve the purpose. We'll see how it holds up in the rain and snow — we may need to put some leftover chicken wire or a crosspiece to support the plastic if it starts to get weighed down in the middle. This should get us through the spring, and over the summer we plan to build some new cold frames that will be sized properly for these beds anyway.

Once the cold frame was ready to go, all we needed to do was add a little compost as a top dressing to the soil, which was looking pretty great after the chickens helped us work it. Over the winter months, the compost yard doesn't get a whole lot of attention, especially as it was recently buried in some pretty big snow drifts. Kirk opened up a bin he knew had some good stuff in it from last fall:

In addition to being convenient, the removable front door of our pallet compost bins lets us get a look at the history of compost over a season in our garden. You can see the good, black, finished compost at the very bottom, then the leaves from the fall, some fairly recent kitchen scraps, and the snow on top. When it gets warm and we need compost in larger quantities, we'll turn these and rotate the finished compost into one area. For now, though, we only needed a couple five-gallon buckets, so we just shoveled some compost out of the bottom layer and into a bucket. Instead of dealing with the sifter, we just used a pitchfork as an agitator, spinning it around in the bucket to break up the compost.

With our top dressing spread out, we were ready to sow our seeds. Into the cold frame went Bibb lettuce, a red-and-green mesclun, round Parisian carrots, radishes, spinach, arugula, chioggia beets, and bok choy. Many of these plants will eventually outgrow the height of our cold frame, but by then they will be hardened off and ready for life in the springtime. All of these plants are hardy enough for low spring temperatures, so the heat of the cold frame is mostly just to get them to germinate and give them an early start. 

Because our current cold frames are only three feet deep, that leaves a foot of space along the bed that isn't protected. We put in some Swiss chard seeds in the spot anyway, as an experiment. We don't expect it to germinate very quickly, but you never know. If it doesn't grow, we'll try again in April. 


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