4. Cold frame

This has been a remarkable spring. Remarkable because it’s so cold.

Looking back at my garden diary from 2011, I see that I had planted all the cold weather crops (brassicas, spinach, peas, lettuces, onion sets) PLUS beets, carrots, potatoes and marigolds, by this date. This year, just the cold weather plants, moved to different boxes than they were in last year. Every gardener is putting on her patience cloak this year.

One advance we’ve made this year, though: we built a cold frame. I found an old window sash in Father-in-law’s garage. He passed away in 2010, so the more things we have around us to remind us of our loved ones, the better. I think of him every time I look at the cold frame. D built a box out of 3/4″ plywood we had lying around. Our WWOOFer, J and I painted it black, although books say paint it white to get lots of light reflecting. It’s in such a sunny spot that it gets light all day.

I lined it with black landscaping cloth, then put a 4″ layer of Salish Soil into it. It has a stick to prop the lid up so it doesn’t get too humid in there, causing the seeds/plants to rot.

A good month and more ago, I seeded several dye plants indoors, thinking I was lengthening the growing season. The Osage Orange, Coreopsis, Indigo and Marigold germinated really well, and looked quite healthy. The Woad, on the other hand, made a skimpy appearance – I think 2 plants germinated.

Once the cold frame was built, I put the flats of dye plants in there to harden them off. The plants loved their new environment, and I was even able to leave them in the cold frame for plant-sitting while I was away for 5 days. Then, one morning I discovered 3 fat slugs in there! WTF? They had already eaten 1.5 Woad seedlings. I hastily chopped off their heads, and sprinkled egg shells all around the flats, plus salt along the top of the frame. I figure they had crawled into the Salish Soil while it was stored for a month under the tarp on the driveway. The slugs have had a field day in the gardens this wet cold year.

Slugged narcissus

But, there’s still no evidence of any in our rooftop garden. The soils (Salish and Sea Soils) we put into the raised beds there was sterilized from the composting process, and they don’t seem to have crawled up there yet. I will monitor carefully.

Speaking of garden pests, hoards of green aphids have already found the healthy-looking columbine (Organic gardening experts would have you believe that really robust plants are resistant to pests.) One day they were not there, the next day there was a population explosion. I sprayed them with the hose, then made a garlic spray with a tiny bit of oil and a tiny bit of dish soap. It seems to have helped, but I check them every day. Last year I noticed that the Columbine is prone to powdery mildew, so I will use the organic spray, Serenade, as a preventative.

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