Monday, May 3, 2010

Using a Cold Frame for Spring Vegetables

Since I missed my personal blog on Thursday due to the Governor's Healthcare IT Conference, I'm posting one now.

As I've discussed in numerous previous blogs, I grow a significant proportion of my vegetables l between March 1 and October 1. The problem with New England is that the weather is very unpredictable.

How do I deal with a Spring that can be 80 degrees one day and snowing the next?

The answer is that I use Cold Frames for my Spring vegetables, especially lettuces. This year I planed Arugula, Oak Leaf, Red Salad Bowl, Red Verona Chicory, Batavian Endive and Garden Cress in March.

The Cold Frame traps the sun's heat, protects young buds from ice/snow/wind, and keeps the chipmunks from munching the tender leaves.

However, this is one caveat - you need to automatically vent the cold frame in direct proportion to temperatures above 60F, otherwise the Cold Frame becomes and oven that roasts your vegetables.

I modified my Cold Frame with an automated vent/lid opener. As the pneumatic cylinder heats, air expands and automatically opens the lid. In my case, the lid starts to open at 60F and opens fully by 80F.

For the past 3 weeks, all the greens for our family meals have come from the Cold Frame. I use scissors to harvest fresh greens minutes before they're served. In our household, we use just a touch of balsamic vinegar and no oil on our greens. They're great!

Cold Frames are definitely a gardener's friend in New England.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can overwinter early greens in a coldframe or simply under a sheet of plastic. I live on the border of NY/VT and have been eating fresh greens since mid-march. Have a look at Eliot Coleman's website for more info.

I wish more people grew some of their own food.