Tag Archives: cold frame

In the March Garden at The Toy Box

Sunset on February was pretty, Sunrise on March looks to be gorgeous!

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

You can still get away with stopping to listen to the bird song in March, but I feel the urgency to get out and get dirty… or muddy, depending on what hour it is in March. There are very few chores that must be done this month, but don’t put them off too long or you will miss out on some of the best food from your garden, come May.

Most Toy Box peas are direct seeded, but a few always get their start in soil blocks.

Most Toy Box peas are direct seeded, but a few always get their start in soil blocks.

The first half of March

  1. Pick a place to plant peas, set up your pea fence.
  2. Buy fresh inoculate (if you use it)
  3. Check your Soil Block stash, got enough?
  4. Get ready to start those Tomatoes!
  5. It’s time to chit potatoes!! Get your favorites early
  6. Plant more salad and radishes.
Soil Blocks of Tomato seeds.

Soil Blocks of Tomato seeds.

Every Year I tell myself that next year I am going to wait until April to start my tomatoes… and like every other year, I’m feeling anxious to start them in March. I just happen to be missing soil block ingredients this year so I may be forced to wait. Meanwhile, I try to keep my eyes off the tomato pages of local seed catalogs. I’m sure the 20 plus packets of seeds that I already have will be sufficient. Except that I want….

If we spend any money at the garden shop, it will be for seed potatoes. We need everything. Most of the seed potatoes we plant can be found locally but one is iffy. Burbank Russets are not even sort of rare. Even so, they are hard to find in Everett. They are the one potato that does well in our potato towers, making potatoes at all levels as advertised. Everything else can be found on a day trip to Marysville or Mt. Vernon.

Have your radishes sprouted yet? Whoo-hoo… Don’t wait too long, start some-more. Mine are growing in the greenhouse with tiny greens, scallions and spinach. This first week of March I like to set up the cold-frame and get another patch of salad started. The slug wars begin.

Rudy Valentine

Rudy Valentine

March 1, 2015 and the sun is up at 6:50 AM (duh). The back porch is wet but the weather prophets are telling me I have zero chance of seeing any rain, a good day to get those weeds while they are still young. (adding the herb garden to my list of must do). High of 55, low of 37 (F). I’ve only got 11 hours and 3 minutes to get everything done today, sunset at 5:53 PM

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Progress 3-23-14 Pea Planting Time.

Season 5 Peas, Maestro and Green Arrow

Season 5 Peas, Maestro and Green Arrow

Spring is like magic. One day the skies clear, the sun warms the soil and the birds call my name. You know the lawn needs cutting but it will happily wait for you. There are peas that need planting.

I think this tool is meant to be used for pulling weeds but I use it to plant onions and for working with soil blocks. It moves gently between blocks and scoots them to an easy-to-pick-up spot.

I think this tool is meant to be used for pulling weeds but I use it to plant onions and for working with soil blocks. It moves gently between blocks and scoots them to an easy-to-pick-up spot.

Season 5 (2014) seems wetter then other seasons in Everett, Washington. I put most of my peas into soil blocks this year. They sprouted in the greenhouse and have patiently waited for me to take them to their garden home. Even though pea greens do not look very large, the roots surprise me with their length. I started out making holes in the patch just large enough for the soil block, my normal soil block planting method, but worried about what was happening to those wild roots. The better method was to dig a shallow trench, lay the roots I the direction they grew in the tray, then back-fill the trench. Much quicker, less stress.

Garlic, planting it on Halloween is as close as I get to celebrating. Boo!

Garlic, planting it on Halloween is as close as I get to celebrating. Boo!

The shallots and garlic are not nearly as thick looking as I anticipated. I expect to harvest shallots for a short season but I want the garlic to get me through to next spring. Normally I plant my garlic under a thick layer of maple leaves for insulation through winter. This year I just put the kitty cover on the bed (a cold frame that fits my 4×4 SFG’s–square foot gardens). This may have been a mistake. For the last week the cover has been off of the garlic-shallot bed, it is time to move it to the broccoli bed.

Broccoli started under the Snow Moon (February)

Broccoli started under the Snow Moon (February)

The SFG the spring broccoli will go into has been worked with home-grown compost, a small layer of that awesome horse manure compost from the neighbors boarding stable, alfalfa meal (worm candy) and a bit of lime. The best broccoli I ever grew was in season 3. The largest head was nine and a half inches across (Thompsons OP)!  That broccoli bed was strictly MM (mel’s mix, the “soil” in SFG) made with Toy Box compost (dominated by our chicken bedding). I tried to duplicate that in season 4 with the horse compost and got lush growth but really small heads. So for Season 5 I just lightly amended my compost with a bit of horse compost. You know that if I have something to brag about I sure will! The kitty cover will have the poly rain-coat repaired (winter winds) and be moved to the broccoli bed in time for the pink moon when I plant it out (about a week from today) However, if the evenings after school are too beautiful to ignore, I’ll be out early to plant.

Season 5 Broccoli, in the green house and about ready to plant out (all are OP open pollinated)

  • Thompsons (longer season, produced the 9.5 inch broccoli)
  • Solstice
  • Nutri-bud (early with summer long production of side shoots)
  • Umpqua (the only heirloom, mixed feelings about the low production I’ve had in the past)
Tarragon makes a come-back

Tarragon makes a come-back

Meanwhile…… Both of the parsleys and spinach have been planted out. In fact my parsley has taken off. After not planting parsley last season, I am very tempted to start harvesting the immature sprigs. Green omelets are sounding good. I am forcing myself to wait. The lettuce under the cold frame in the front garden is growing slowly. No salads yet. I look with envy at “First salad” posts on facebook. None of those posts are from the PNW but it doesn’t change my longing. Still no sign of the new rhubarb. I thought there was, but it turned out to be a leaf that fell off of the root at planting time. No sign of fava bean sprouts either. The first potatoes should have been planted. Saint Patrick’s day came and went and I still do not have my early yellow seed potatoes. Ray has promised me a ride to Mount Vernon for my birthday (last week in case you wonder, it was happy) to find a new source of organic yellow seed potatoes. I guess it is time for two things. 1. Time to start saving yellow seed potatoes. Currently I only save fingerlings and buy the reds, yellows and russets I want every spring. 2. Time for a Sunday drive. Finally, Those tomatoes I was impatient for are up and growing and will soon need to be up-potted. Most are getting their true leaves already.

Pots of old lavender set out, testing the sun from this spot.

Pots of old lavender set out, testing the sun from this spot.

In the Back To Eden – food forest, Ray has planted our blueberries. After five years of not being certain we could afford to stay in Everett, we have finally moved those berries from big pots to the ground. We are still amazed that the bills get paid month after month. YHVH is kind. Next in is our old lavender plants. It might be better to just buy new lavender starts (or try making my own… humm) and I saw that Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island is selling lavender at their Coupeville market. But I think we will take a chance with these old faithful plants. The BTE bed is narrow, I am trying to leave room for my artichokes which are doing well, thank you very much!

Rudy Valentine

Rudy Valentine trying to stay warm by the chicken tractor while I plant pea blocks. It must be getting warmer for Rudy to stay out with me.

Faithful Rudy The Underground predicts sun today. They are telling me that a light NW breeze will bring in afternoon clouds but boldly promise 0% chance of rain! 52/39 Sunup at 7:05 AM and apparently shining until 7:26 PM for 12 hours and 21 minutes of daylight. Now that is a sure sign of spring!

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After-school chores

Valentine Mix Lettuce

Valentine Mix Lettuce

Friday, after school, was a bright and beautiful. I spread wood chips into a few gardens by the bucket full. I hardly even made a dent in the pile of chips. Here is the check list of chores done before the sun set and Sabbath began.

One lone strawberry leaf after filling this bed with compost and chips.

One lone strawberry leaf after filling this bed with compost and chips.

•Strawberry bed cleaned up, sprinkled with lime, a layer of alfalfa meal (like candy for the worms), followed by a layer of composted horse poo (a gift from a neighbor), followed by a layer of homegrown, wormy compost and finally by a layer of wood chips. It looks pretty (I also cleaned up all the brush encroaching on the strawberry bed…love the chop and drop method of cleaning up brush, which is actually a landscape plant that I do not know the name of, I think the local bumble bees call it buzz bush). Note, I did not drop the blackberry vines, I still toss them back over the fence.
•Spread buckets of wood chips on the fava beans and peas (nothing has sprouted yet)
Garlic•Opened up the garlic-shallot box to the fresh air (and later, to the fresh rain)
•Put the nuggets in the tractor for the afternoon (too much stuff has been planted to let them roam, poor chickens) Gave the girls the bucket of weeds and cracked snails from the strawberry bed. If they see me put a bucket of yum in their run, I don’t have to argue with them about going back in when tractor time is done.
•Covered the new rhubarb with wood chips.

Lettuce and mustards under a portable cold frame. Yes that is bubble wrap.

Lettuce and mustards under a portable cold frame. Yes that is bubble wrap.

•Covered an area in the new front (and probably last) SFG with the same layers as I put on the strawberry bed. But this time I took my spade and worked it all in before putting a bucket full of wood chips back on top. Ray was going to build a hoop house over that garden but worried that it would not look pretty enough for the front yard (we hear scary stories) so he repaired and set a portable cold-frame in the garden instead. Under that cold-frame I planted the Wolf Moon lettuce and Mesclun mix . I had a peek, they both look fine.

Still going strong in the Greenhouse

Still going strong in the Greenhouse

Saturday, I putzed around the green house while it was raining. Finally gave the Wolf Moon onions a haircut. I also up-potted the Imperial Star artichokes. The Green Globe artichokes that I up potted a week or two ago are doing fine. Every year I worry that I will kill the little sprouts by transplanting them and every year they prove that they are tougher then I am clumsy. The little purple artichokes have not even sprouted yet. Both the Parsleys are starting to get real leaves. I know where I will put them, but I think they need the cold frame too. In the PNW a cold-frame does protect from cold nights, but just as important, it protects baby plants from drowning in the rain. Spinach starts are ready for the garden. I will put them in the same area as the parsley. They can probably wait a weekend or two, but the younger, the better in my book …..err, blog. I moved a tray of peas (green arrow and maestro) in soil blocks from the 2nd shelf of the sprouting rack to the wide mouth of the potato pot where they will get more light. The Potatoes (some kind of yellow from the natural food co-op) are showing sprouts but are tentative about really growing in my unheated green house. So I do not feel too bad about giving the peas temporary quarters on top of their big pot.

The one job that I have not done yet, that I should have done a couple of weeks ago, is starting my tomatoes. Mostly this is because my bin of soil-blocker mix has a crack in the lid and the mix has turned to mud. Ray bought a new bin and the ingredients that we did not already have to make another batch of mix. But it won’t be soil block mix until we actually do the mixing. I keep reminding myself that it is still February. Then I panic because really, it is the 2nd week of March. Arrrgh! In addition to the dozens of tomatoes I already have seeds for, I will trial Jaune Flammee, apparently an earlier Tomato in the PNW, and Gold Medal, a full season PNW tomato.

Summer Dreams

Summer Dreams

Summer dreams… while the rain pounds on the roof. March 10, 2014: Underground Weather is putting their best face on this sticky wet weather: Showers, becoming less numerous. Basically it is going to rain most of the day. At least it should cool down at night, a good sign, it means things are clearing up a bit. 50/38 Sun’s up at 7:31 — 11 hours and 36 minutes later it sets at 7:07. A promise of sun is coming!

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Winter Garden in a cold frame

I have been thinking about giving this a try.

Direct seeding Cold Frames…in Winter

The Toy Box, December 4, 2010

In late August and early September I am busy with school. Too busy to put in my winter garden. When winter arrives I want to add winter vegetables to the menu but there is precious little to add. Keven Kossowan, a gardener-blogger in Edmonton, Alberta, writes that he is direct seeding his cold-frame as late as November. Western Washington State is a banana belt compared to Kevin’s farm. This gives me hope for success. I am jazzed about trying in my little cold-frame.

On the winter cold-frame menu? Peas (of the seed I have I’ll choose the shortest growing), golden beets, spinach, carrots, greens, a square of microgreens and some kale. Maybe parsley and leeks too (how big is that cold frame?) I’ll probably video-document it all.

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