The Cold Frame: First Crop of Greens


IMG_7169I added compost to and tilled the soil in my cold frames on the south side of my house last fall and left them open all winter. The snow drifted in and then melted as the weather warmed a few weeks ago. It didn’t take long for  the soil to warm up and be ready for planting.

The bottoms of my cold frames are made mostly from scavenged wood angled to catch the sun and the tops are junk picked storms and screens. I prop them up with a brick for ventilation on warm days. Just a tip: Don’t forget to pick up the screens that match the windows when you are junking. They come in handy for keeping squirrels out of your frames when you have to open them for ventilation.

I planted my cold frames in mid-March. I went through my seed stash andIMG_7164 decided not to buy any seed mixes of greens. It seemed like I already had enough odds and ends that I could make do. All of the seeds I chose have fairly low germination temperatures. Planting them at this time should have me a cut-and-come-again salad in about four or five weeks.

I planted one cold frame with broccoli raab and spinach and the other with a mixture of mustard, lettuces, and mesclun mix in closely spaced rows. I’ll harvest these greens with my kitchen scissors when they are about three inches high. They will regrow as long as I don’t cut the growing centers of the plants.

IMG_7163The mustard in the mix in one frame came up first. Here it is filling out the rows. I may thin it a little if I don’t see any of the other seeds germinating in a few days, or I may just leave them and enjoy a mess of mustard greens. It took the spinach five or six more days to start to show. I’m still waiting on the broccoli raab.  If it doesn’t show I’ll plant lettuces and arugula from some open-pollinated seed I saved last season.

It was 32 degrees F this morning. The bird bath water was iced over. The plants in the cold frames were doing just fine. I even had to open one up and water it. Another tip: Keep a close eye on the frames even on chilly days when the sun is shining. They will dry and or heat up fast when even a little sun is present. I usually keep a cheap thermometer in each frame in a place where I can read it without having to open the frame. If the temps get in the high 70s or low 80s, I crack the frame open until the sun passes so my greens don’t bolt or die.

I’m looking forward to longer warmer days and fresh food from the garden and NOT from the grocery store. Begonia







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