Rain, Rain, Rain and Snow
Have you had enough yet? What is helping me through this soggy spring (Yes Spring, Happy Equinox!) are my cold frames and covered beds.
Remember the ridiculously warm snap we had for about five weeks in January/February? It took about a week of that weather for me to wake up from my house project/computer stupor and realize I could take advantage of the warm window and plant out some winter gardening seedlings I had started inside.
Due to some pesky life complications, the winter garden had been sparsely planted. So, in total experimental catch up mode, I decided to put out broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and leeks in the middle of winter.
I amended two open beds with compost and the Sierra Nevada Soil Amendment Recipe: Rock Phosphate, Oystershell Lime, Gypsum, Sulfate of Potash and Kelp. An easier way to purchase and provide your soil with the same nutritional needs is Foothill Fertilizer.
Before beginning to plant I tested the soil by forking it a few times to determine that it was dry enough that the dirt crumbled when turned. If the earth is too wet it will stick together and dry into clumps that are difficult to break up. This is a common mistake made by gardeners too anxious to get started after wet weather. The texture of your soil is incredibly important to plant health and vitality.
Clods of dirt do not provide the bed of earth that carries water, nutrients and oxygen to the fragile seedlings. My rule of thumb is to wait for the earth to dry out and when I think it is finally ready, give it one more day.
The seedlings were planted and mulched with a rice hull blanket to provide warmth and to absorb the extra water of winter. Metal hoops were placed about two feet apart and then Agribon was stretched across the top and tucked in on the ends and sides for additional warmth and rain, snow and wind protection.
If the seedlings were not under the Agribon, they would be struggling in all this rain and snow. The seedlings are growing slowly, due to the cold, but are thriving under this cover. This will give us a bit of a jump on the spring harvest and provides some garden activity during these rainy days.
The cold frames are offering fresh salad greens, swiss chard, bok choy, and spinach daily. Planted first of February and harvesting in mid March! They can be covered with 18 inches of snow and the plants are growing right along. My first harvest was a thinning of the closely planted young greens. Now, I cut the plants, leaving about 1 to 2 inches of stalk. The plants regrow quickly, allowing for multiple harvests. I love my cold frames.
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