I tried to overwinter some veggies in the coldframe that I planted last October. I wanted to see what would survive and what would die back.
Here is what has survived (so far) in the coldframe – 1 sad little bok choy, 2 sadder lettuces, 4 happy endives, a row of Bull’s Blood beets and 2 chard. The mache and arugula were doing great but bolted during the 70°F day we had last week and were loaded with aphids so I pulled them out and the chickens enjoyed them instead of me. What didn’t make it was some of the chard, most of the lettuces and mesclun (more baby lettuce).
Now it is suppose to get down to 16°F tomorrow night and 14°F on Sunday night! Yikes! I’m going to spray everything with insecticidal soap for 7 days in a row to hopefully rid me of the aphids. I don’t dare plant anything else in the coldframe till I’m sure they’re gone.
I also planted spinach in an outside raised box with row cover over them and they hung on in a rather dormant state and now they are growing full blast.
Next year I will only plant endive, mache, spinach and arugula as they did great even when we got down to 10°F although I do put a layer of heavy row cover over all when it gets down in the teens.
Spinach eaten by rabbit (funny it didn't eat the stems)-March 13
Remember the severely eaten spinach I showed last month (March 13)? Now that the cold frame is repaired I can keep the rabbits out again. No more feasting on my spinach! While the cold frame was damaged and open to rabbits, I kept some row cover over the damaged spinach and I held it down with rocks. The rabbits couldn’t get to it and the spinach made a glorious recovery! Had spinach and cheddar omelet yesterday with it! I should be able to get more meals out of the spinach as it is doing great and we have lots of time before the heat comes and it bolts.
I had to rebuild the top and one side of my coldframe as I left it open one day and the wind wrecked it. The new lid has turned out great and is much lighter than the previous lid. On the first lid I used 1/4 inch plexiglass for the clear top which made it really heavy to lift. So I went to Home Depot and got some lightweight clear corrugated polycarbonate panels that were more expensive than plain clear corrugated plastic panels. I hope they won’t get cloudy or streaked and they say they are almost unbreakable. We’ll see in our wind! I won’t leave it wide open again, that’s for sure!
I was doing some research on Winter Purslane and Mache for including them in my cold frame for next fall/winter gardening and found a seed company in (of all places) New Mexico. It is called www.gourmetseed.com and hails out of Tatum, NM and you can purchase these items and more from them. Mache is pretty common but I haven’t heard about Purslane (except the wild kind that grows here). So let me talk a little about these two winter crops that have been grown in Europe for centuries.
Mache (French Corn Salad)-picture from gourmetseed.com
This gourmet green is also known as corn salad and lamb’s lettuce. It has been cultivated from France since the 17th century. Mache was named because it’s leaf resembles the shape and size of a lamb’s tongue! It is one of the few greens that can handle our winters (like spinach). It grows in a rosette if you plant individually but most just broadcast the seeds (like you would for mesclun) in an area to make a carpet of leaves as they are very small. Growing low to the ground, it is harder to harvest but it has a nutty, sweet flavor worth the effort. To harvest it, just take a knife and cut it off below the leaf level being careful not to injure the delicate leaves and wash well. You can eat it alone or put it in with other salad greens but use a light vinaigrette or even lemon juice and a little oil-it is too delicate for heavy dressings. They say you can steam it like spinach but it is too small for me to do that. I grew this many years ago under row cover in raised boxes and it did well but grew very slow in our winter but when Spring came it was ready and I went out one day only to find the chickens had escaped and raided the garden and they ate all but a few leaves of my Mache! The few leaves left tasted wonderful so I hope they enjoyed it! It like colder weather so I may try again this early spring as it takes 6-12 weeks till harvest but much longer if it goes into winter. Mache doesn’t like to be warm. Maybe I’ll try it when I plant more spinach in early March and again next fall.
Winter Purslane (Miner's Lettuce)--picture from gourmetseed.com
This is not to be confused with the purslane weed that grows wild in New Mexico and throughout the U.S. I will write the next post on that one (Portulaca oleracea) because it is interesting too but for now I want to focus on this variety. This winter green is also known as Miner’s Lettuce or Indian Lettuce and is rich in Vitamin C. It was eaten by early miners to avoid Scurvy. This wonderful wild green is used in Germany and other European countries for it’s tender young leaves. It is used as an addition to mesclun and other salads or steamed like spinach. You pick the leaves when they are young and tender. Most people plant this in fall because it handles the winter so well. I think I will try this in my cold frame next fall. I haven’t done a cold frame in years until this year, but am enjoying seeing the spinach, oakleaf lettuce and chard in it. It’s nice seeing something green in the dead of winter and hopefully if they survive this winter, I will get an early crop of some wonderful greens and now that I’m excited again about fall/winter gardening, I will definitely plant some Mache and Purslane next year. You might consider it too.
It really looks like old man winter has arrived. Here are pictures of the main garden and pumpkin patch down by the barn that I took this morning. We’ve had some precipitation (finally) on Dec 31-Jan.1 and some absolutely frigid temperatures last week which is why it is still on the ground. Another Arctic blast is due here next week. Oh boy, can’t wait..
I went to get some carrots in my small patch protected only by 12 inches of straw up by the house for dinner last night and the carrots (yellow carrots) were looking good but the ground was frozen. All those nights in the single digits made the ground rock hard. Guess I’ll have to wait till spring when it thaws to harvest some.
Cold Frame Jan 8, 2011
When I checked the cold frame, the soil is still soft and the plants are doing great!
Winter lettuce damage
A little damage on some of the lettuce leaves from the -4° we had one night but not bad considering I don’t pay any attention to it except for an occasional watering. In the picture notice I have large bubble wrap on my cover to add insulation and you can see the row cover to the left that I have to cover the crop with to also add protection. Guess this is working pretty well. The transplanted chard is holding it’s own and the spinach leaves ARE ACTUALLY GROWING-slowly but growing! So I watered the cold frame winter veggies before the next big weather front. I use gallon jugs to water-easier than the frozen hose…