Volume 14, Issue 43 ~ October 26 - November 1, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Prepare Your Winter Garden Now

Summer’s end doesn’t mean your harvest has to

Just because colder weather’s on its way doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh salad greens, crisp radishes and green onions. For the past four years, I’ve harvested spinach, Egyptian onions, radishes and romaine lettuce from my 30-inch-by-68-inch cold frame.

I built my cold frame from 2x8 lumber using an old sliding glass door for a cover. The front of the frame faces south with the glass at a 30-degree slope to maximize absorption of the sun’s rays. The frame’s front is 10 inches high to minimize shading of plants. During colder winter days and nights, I cover the glass with pieces of old rug to trap heat, removing them when the sun shines.

In mid to late September, I begin planting radishes. As daylight hours grow shorter, radishes produce larger bulbs with smaller tops. This means there is more room for lettuce and spinach. Egyptian onions can be planted between the lettuce and spinach without creating a competition problem between species.

By following this schedule, I can begin harvesting radishes from the cold frame at about the time that I stop harvesting them from the garden. By planting a single row of radishes at two- to three-week intervals, I am assured of fresh radishes until March. I will start harvesting green onions, spinach and lettuce in late January and continue until early April.

The cold frame does need to be ventilated on warm sunny days and irrigated at least weekly when the sun shines. Because the soils are cool, nutrient availability from the compost is limited; apply water-soluble fertilizer. Apply a diluted application of a 14-14-14 fertilizer twice monthly to keep plants hydrated. You won’t have summer’s insect and disease problems — such pests are mostly dormant, and night temperatures are generally too cold for them to survive well.

Winter gardening does require advance planning and some care, but you’re rewarded with fresh homegrown vegetables all winter.

Saving tulips from Voles

Q I am looking for crushed oyster shells. I have been told they will discourage voles from eating our tulip bulbs. They would be mixed in with the soil as a deterrent. If you have any knowledge whether this is true, and if you can advise me where to purchase shells, I would appreciate the information.

—Carolyn Hoffman, LaPlata

A That is a new one on me. To prevent voles from eating croccus and tulip bulbs, I plant moth balls within a few inches from a cluster of bulbs. If you plant your tulip bulbs in a circle, plant two to three moth balls in the middle of the circle at approximately the same depth.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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