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Volume 15, Issue 37 ~ September 13 - September 19, 2007

Build Cold Frames Now for Winter Harvests

Winter vegetables grow hearty in mini-greenhouses

For fresh greens and green onions during the winter months, now is the time to prepare a cold frame. A cold frame is an enclosure with a glass or clear plastic-covered roof. Old storm windows or used sliding glass doors make good covers, but they are not necessary. Two sheets of clear polyethylene stretched over a frame will provide ample light for growing plants. The walls of the cold frame can be made of wood, bricks, cement blocks or even bales of straw or hay. If you use bales of straw or hay, cover them with polyethylene to keep them as dry as possible.

Cold frames should be constructed with a roof sloping approximately 30 degrees to the south. Placing a cold frame against the north side of a wall or foundation provides additional protection and heat during winter. The dimensions of the cold frame should be made to fit the windows, glass doors or poly-covered frame that will be the roof. The width of the cold frame should be no less than three feet, and the front of the cold frame should be no less than 12 inches above the soil inside.

The soil within the cold frame should be rich in compost and properly limed to meet the requirements of your vegetables. Spading in one to two inches of compost now will do wonders later on. You also must be able to irrigate the cold frame during the winter months as needed.

Don’t start closing the cold frame until after temperatures begin dropping below freezing, in late October or November. On warm days, ventilate to prevent temperatures from building up. I generally do not start closing my cold frame tightly until mid-December.

Some of the vegetables you will want to consider growing in a cold frame for winter include spinach, Bibb lettuce, scallions or green onions, walking or Egyptian onions and radishes. I plant mostly spinach, inter-planted with walking onions.

Plant now and enjoy fresh vegetables on your plate come freezing weather.

Redbud after Dogwood

Q We have removed our dogwood because of anthracnose and plan to plant a forest pansy redbud as its replacement. How far from the original location do we need to plant it, and what is your opinion of the forest pansy in full sun? Everything I have read says it likes sun. I have a lot of leftover LeafGro with which to amend the soil, and I plan to also add some peat moss. Any other suggestions?

Thank you for all your advice,

–Nancy Briani, by email

A Discular anthracnose will not affect redbud; thus far it only infects our native dogwood. I am not familiar with the forest pansy redbud. It is not listed in my 2005 directory, so it must be a new cultivar. This means that it has not met the test of time.

You can plant it in the same spot. Use the LeafGro and forget about the peat moss. Peat moss is nothing more than washed out organic matter that will hold excessive amounts of water in our heavy soils. Only use peat moss in formulating potting media that don’t contain soils.

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

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