Last fall the guys doing work (building a garage, replacing dangerous sidewalks, clearing brush, putting up a deerproof fence) on the Chez Howard property also built four 3×6′ raised beds, one of them with a coldframe cover.
Swell. About 15 years ago we had a very surprising spell of warm February weather during what was then our brutally cold upstate winters, and the Beloved Partner and I scampered out and, using old windows and random bricks, Mcgyvered a coldframe. We tossed some seeds in there and—to the amazement of all the gardeners in our little corner of Earlville—we had salads in March.
That experience has been on my mind ever since, so I seized the opportunity to have a for-reals coldframe made last fall. One of the raised beds is a coldframe; one will be for herbs; and the other two will be for salad greens and table vegetables. Our big gardens (approximately 5,000 square feet) are for squash, beans, corn, tomatoes, and the like.
Now, however, I have to figure out how to for-reals use the coldframe. I’ve done some scouting, and I’ve browsed Siegchrist’s Building and Using Cold Frames pamphlet. Most of the guidance has been about how to build the things (done already!) and how to maintain them (it’s clear that I should procure an automatic venting device). But what, exactly, should I plant, and when?
In addition, I have bought frost-protecting sheets and hoops for the three raised beds. What planting schedule should I use for them?
Finally I find a really good source from the Harvest to Table site, with a “season-by-season cold frame operations calendar.” Bless their hearts. Working from that, I’ve drafted a schedule for the coldframe and table-veggies raised beds. I figure the frost protection on the raised beds buys 2-3 weeks, and that the hood on the coldframe buys me 4-5. So here’s my schedule, and I’ll try to report on how well it works for our Zone 4 (now teetering toward 5) climate:
February 20: start lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, broccoli, chard, and radishes in the coldframe
March 13: start them in the frost-protected raised bed
April 3: start them in an open raised bed
. . . and that completes my garden planning for 2013!