Less than 24 hours after the cold frame pic was taken it is missing its plastic covers. We had a heck of a storm lastnight. Our tv antenna (yes we still have one of those) mast snapped and our antenna is hovering about 2′ off the ground. The plastic covers that were fastened to the cold frame by strips of wood are hanging. They were closed by the time the storm came so it must have been a heck of a wind. One of the pieces of wood was found about 30′ from the cold frame sticking straight up out of the ground. I won’t have time to repair this till tomorrow after work. The plants inside look ok and it is only supposed to get down to the mid 30s tonight so it should be ok.
My poor little apricot is always in such a hurry. This one lives in a half barrel and I do believe that next winter I am going to move it to the north side of the house to discourage such an early showing. I had meant to do that last winter but the time got away from me.
This is one of the two lovage plants I put in the ground last year. So far this is the only one that has made a showing. Some sources list this plant as a potherb (stalks and leaves) and as a medicinal. I’ve never tried it for either though I may try steaming some of the young leaves if it makes a strong enough showing. It looks a lot like a loose celery when it is growing.
If it weren’t for these automatic openers I probably would not have attempted the cold frame. It is so nice not to have to keep such a close eye on the temperature and run back and forth opening and closing the lids. That is sorrel that is peeking out on the left.
Garden sorrel is great in salads when the leaves are young. It has a lemony flavor that really adds some life to milder greens. It is one of the earliest herbs to come alive in the spring. I was able to keep a couple of plants going in the cold frame all winter. This is a form of Dock, fairly common in some parts of the world.
I call these Timex daffodils. They have volunteered in the same spot in my garden since we’ve lived here. This is the first year I’ve seen flowers though. Normally I forget they are there and end up tilling them when I renovate the strawberry bed.
The second automatic vent I ordered came a couple of weeks ago. It has been so wet and cold since then I didn’t get it installed. I noticed this morning that the other lid with the autovent already installed was open a few inches so I decided to take advantage of today and get the other one installed. It went on without a hitch.
The cold frame still had some lettuce & radishes that I had planted last fall. The radishes were history. The lettuce looked good but a taste test told me it was too bitter to fool with. Perhaps it was planted too early last fall. We had a very warm winter and it may have gotten too mature before slowing down for the winter. I pulled what was in there and reseeded with lettuce, radishes and spinach. I tried to rotate but its hard when you are dealing with a little less than 32 ft sq.
I did notice that some of the flats I had seeded late this winter have sprouted. Unfortunately a couple of weeks ago I forgot to lock down the lid without the auto-opener and a wind blew it open. Some of the tags I had on the flats identifying what was what blew off. Now its seedling surprise with some of them. I’m sure I’ll be able to figure them out once they get some size on them.
Not much has been going on around here garden-wise as is evidenced by the post drought and snow cover. That is slowly starting to change though. The past couple of weekends I have been seeding flats with some perennial flowers, herbs etc. Johnny Jump Ups, Baby’s Breath, Rudbeckia, Butterfly Bush, White Coneflower, Bellflower, Roman Chamomile, Green Onions and about half a dozen others I can’t remember right now. Nothing fancy but something I’ve really never tried before.
After seeding a flat I piled some snow on it to give it a slow watering as the snow melted. I placed the flats in the cold frame to give them a boost on spring. For a test I seeded some basil too. I am interested to see if it comes up at all, comes up too early and dies or waits to come up when conditions are right. I laid a piece of plastic over the flats as I didn’t have any glass and trying to get plastic wrap from the kitchen to cooperate ended up with a pile of plastic wrap on the ground next to the cold frame and still uncovered flats. The plastic will help conserve water. I locked the one frame without the automatic opener to keep the wind from blowing it open which has happened several times this winter.
Max usually follows me to the garden but I had a lot on my mind this morning as I returned from the coldframe and didn’t notice her running past as I walked. I spent the next 20 minutes or so puttering around the back porch and noticed that she wasn’t underfoot then either but sometimes she is off doing her own thing so I didn’t think too much about it. I decided to blog my morning and thought it would be good to include some photos. I picked up the digital and headed back outside. Imagine my shock when I opened the cold frame and saw her face sitting there looking back at me. I am soooo glad I decided to blog today. It ened up saving my cat. I had not planned to even open the cold frame till next weekend and I am sure she wouldn’t have lasted that long. She must have snuck in and ran to the uncovered side while I had my back turned. With the snow cover on the lights/lids I wouldn’t have noticed her unless she came over to the side I was working on. I can’t even image walking out there next weekend and finding her.
We’ve had lots of lows in the teens and days in the 20s-30s. Today it actually got into the low 50s for the first time since late November. I re-covered the cold frame lids yesterday as the way I did it the first time didn’t allow water to run off very easily and the weight of the water and ice tended to stretch the plastic which added to the drainage problem. If the drainage problem persists I’ll look into into some poly or acrylic sheets for next year if the added weight won’t be too much for the automatic opener. Of course I picked the first windy day I could find to do this so I came out of it looking like I had been mudwrestling.
Through all of the cold (and snow) the greens in the cold frame are battered but still kicking. The green onions aren’t looking very good. A few are still alive but they may have just been planted too late. The chives are still green but not great looking, the sorrel is still ok. The frame has no added heat source and some burn is evident on some of the lettuce. The radishes are looking kind of sad, not sure they will recover. I’ve not tried tasting any of it lately. I don’t know if the extended stay at such a small size will affect the taste. I have heard that there is a chance that if it lives through the winter the lettuce will be prone to rapid bolting once spring temps arrive. Time will tell.
Last night we were the recipients of some freezing rain. This morning everything was covered with a layer of ice. Fortunately not enough to cause any local damage that I am aware of. Being that I am not a big fan of the cold I didn’t make it outside while the ice was still thick. By the time I got out to the cold frame to take this picture much of it had melted with our 30F high today. I did try to get a picture of what remained but the battery on the camera gave out as I was trying to frame the shot. Oh well I am sure it won’t be the last ice we see this winter.
The greens are a mixture of several lettuces, spinach, radishes and several other salad greens. That is sorrel and some chives near the bottom of the picture. I scattered a mix of different seeds with the plant to thin (and eat) what was left after the radishes were gone. I really didn’t expect to see anything but brown dead things in there after the 10F night we had the other night. Looks like I may be on to something.
One morning a few weeks ago there was a touch of frost on the car windows yet the plants are still holding with peppers, raspberries and what is left of the tomatoes still on the vine. Our average frost date was a little over 2 weeks ago and they are calling for a high near 70 today. I am starting to wonder if Thanksgiving will be too early to plant the garlic and shallots this year.
I’ve pulled the first round of radishes for the as of yet unneeded cold frame. The trick is not letting it overheat with only one autovent installed.
Last weekend I built the ‘lights’ (aka lids) for my cold frame. I covered them in 6 mil plastic to keep the weight down. I installed the Univent automatic opener and have discovered that I will definately need a second one of these for the other side at least during the fall and spring seasons. The manufacturer recommends removing the plunger part during the winter (and summer) which isn’t a problem as is it screws right out. There is also a quick release mechanism to allow me to open the lid up fully if necessary. The temps have been so warm I am going to remove the lids altogether tomorrow. I bought hinges with removable pins so this would be a snap. I also picked up a used copy of Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest via Amazon. Bring on the cold.
While the rest of the garden is coming to a close the cold frame is just getting started. We are still probably 2-3 weeks away from our first frost but the garden plants are winding down as the days shorten and the nights cool off. Everything I planted in the cold frame a couple of weeks ago is up and growing strong. I dug up the other side, incorporating a little manure/humus mix into the soil today. I will probably plant some more radishes and spinach in there this afternoon or tomorrow. In a week or two I should have some good sized lettuce transplants from the basement. I still need to build the lights (lids).
These green onions may or may not do anything going in this late but as with everything else I never know till I try.
I read that the sweet potatoes are to be dug just prior to the first frost. I’ve never grown them and if we even get a couple of sweet potatoes off each of the 30 plants I planted that will be more than enough for us for the winter.
Raspberry Pancake Syrup:
Yesterday I pulled the raspberries out of the freezer that I had been gathering every other day for the past two weeks. They filled an 8 qt pot to overflowing while frozen and once thawed and mashed took up about 3/4 as much space. This was heated slowly for the better part of two hours while I did some much needed weeding and painted the cold frame. The hot raspberry mess was poured into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth and allowed to drip till cool. Last night I stuck the whole contraption in the fridge and let it drip overnight. I ended up with about 12 cups of clear juice.
I used blackberry pancake syrup recipe, keeping the sugar @ 2/3 cup per cup of juice. I ended up canning 8 pints this morning. Most of these will be given away this Christmas.
I love hot poppers aka jalapeno bites. Halved jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese. I grew 8 jalapeno plants this year just to have some to try my hand at making them up and freezing them. Right now I have about 2qts of the halved, seeded peppers soaking in water to mellow them out a little. I scoured the net and found a recipe I am going to tweak a bit and will make them up tonight.
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated cheddar or jack cheese
25 jalapeno peppers, seeded, cut in half
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1-1/2 cups dried packaged breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tps onion powder
Mix up the cheeses and spoon into jalapenos. Mix garlic and onion powder with bread crumbs. Drop in milk and coat with bread crumbs. Freeze on cookie sheets. Package. To eat, bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until hot all the way through, golden brown, and crisp.
Cold Frame Planting:
The cold frame is painted, situated and half planted. Actually I probably didn’t need to put these things in the cold frame yet as they will all withstand a frost or two. I just wanted to plant something in there.
I dug a bag of manure/compost mix I had laying around into one half of the cold frame (4×4 area) . I sowed some spinach, cherry belle radish, daikon radish, green onions and raab broccoli. The onions as well as the cb radish and spinach were planted in wide rows as we will eat the thinnings. I have yet to make the covers but they really aren’t necessary yet. If anything I may make them and put screen on them to keep bugs out. If this is a typical fall it will be another month before our first frost and even then frosts are generally sporadic till late November. I’ve actually picked broccoli in December with no protection at all but that wasn’t a typical year. Generally “serious winter” takes about 6-8 weeks and usually fills January and February.