by Aaron – November 18th, 2012 (edit)
It is completely possible to be eating fresh veggies year round. The idea is to get most of the growing done before the really cold and dark months, December and January. Across those months we’ll just harvest.
I have picked out cold-germinating, frost tolerant seeds to plant as the idea is to create a micro-climate rather than a controlled climate. The plants need to tolerate a good amount of frost, because the night temperatures outside will still be going down to 5F or lower.
Lettuce- Lactuca sativa
Kale- Brassica oleracea
Arugula- Eruca sativa
Mache – Valerianella locusta
Spinach – Spinacia oleracea
Parsley – Petroselinum crispum (bi-annual)
Mizuna – Brassica rapa nipposinica
Cliantro – Coriandrum sativum
Daikon radish – Raphanus sativus (greens, root and seedpods)
Sorrel – Rumex acetosa (perennial)
Italian dandelion – Cichorium intybus (perennial)
Other cold hardy plants: Collard greens, broccoli, chard, carrots, beets, bunching onions, garlic, chives, thyme, oregano, radish, mustard, cabbage…
Some of the plants will be harvested as baby greens and others let grow to maturity. Thinning is a must, especially as the light is decreasing in the season as is further reduced by the layers of the cold-frame and reemay fabric.
I decided to try an experimental no-dig planting method for these cold frames: scatter the seeds on the ground and cover with a mix of compost and sand.
Then I installed some curved wires and reemay cloth for a second layer of protection using cloths pins to hold the cloth in place. The temp went down to 5° F in late Feb, and all the plants survived beautifully.
Sunny/warm days required venting of the cold frame and the reemay.
The second cold frame got the same treatment.
By the beginning of April I stopped using the reemay in the second cold-frame because it is made of opaque plastic and heats up less. The glass cold-frame with insulation would over-heat so it needed to be vented daily. Leaving the reemay in place keep the cold loving greens from getting too much sun.
6 weeks later and we have been eating greens 3 meals a day!
A nice surprise was loads of dill that had self seeded from last year. They fill in the space and are providing light “over story” of shade as the days get hotter.
Happy greens, all hand-watered with rain water and snow melt caught in a barrel off the chicken coop.