Monday, February 9, 2009

Coldframe roll call

Snow on the spiral garden (and everywhere else for that matter).

This year has been a real winter. It has been the kind of winter that old timers say is how 'it was when I was a kid.' We're not just talking a lot of snow either but bone shattering, teeth clattering, skin freezing cold. The wind chills have been dipping below - 35.

Commercial 'coldframes' made of aluminum and plastic covered by a low tunnel.

Today is relatively mild so I was willing to go outside and do a little coldframe roll call. Will anything be alive in there? Wilted leaves and the smell of rotting vegetation greeted me along with a bit of green.

Mache / Corn Salad

Corn salad has the small spoon like leaves.

Normally, corn salad laughs at the cold and is edible all winter. The fact that the outer leaves are frost bitten, I think is testament to how cold it has been.

Bietina / Perpetual Spinach


A form of Swiss Chard with thin petioles and green leaves, it has proven hardy enough to have survived. It may have helped that the deadened outer leaves sheltered the growing heart in the middle. The regular swiss chard 'Forkhook' was not so lucky.

Radicchio and Bunching Onion


Both were still alive though the outer leaves of the radicchio were frost bitten.



After hearing tales of the tasty spring leaves of scorzonera as a substitute for lettuce, I was very excited to try them. They seem to be alive and well so far.

Earth chestnut


A bit of an experiment, I decided to try the perennial Bunium bulbocastaneum which has edible tubers. The seeds can also be used as a cumin substitute and the leaves are similar to parsley. It is proving to be quite hardy.



I may have mentioned before that my nickname for italian flat leaf parsley is 'polar bear.' Seriously, this herb is a survivor. Not only does shrug off heat but cold as well. It also self seeds reliably in my garden. One year, I was soft hearted in my thinning and had so much parsley that I was giving it away to my neighbours.

Tatsoi and broccoli


This tatsoi is one of the few survivors. It was located in the middle of the coldframe so it was more insulated from the unrelenting cold. The broccoli plants still seem to be alive as well though their leaves are frost singed. We'll see if they start regrowing now that the light levels are increasing.

The weeds


And finally, here is a weed whose name is escaping me. Anyone? It, along with ox-eye daisy meerily growing away.

What did not make it?

The kale and mustard seedlings were eaten by slugs, I think. Rapini bit the dust with the first really cold weather as did the florence fennel. I think I'll have to try heavy mulch for the florence fennel next year. It survived at least until -15 celcius I think in the coldframe, just repeated bouts of -25 were too much for it!


dncrseattle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Okay... you win! You get the award for the most perseverance during FREAKIN' COLD WEATHER! LOL Our row cover collapsed and we gave in after the first two feet of snow. Like you, some stuff survived. However... we did NOT have cold like yours. bbrrrr... Hope you thaw out soon!!

Daphne said...

It is nice to see that a lot of your plants survived the winter. My poor little tunnel collapsed under all the snow, which is not surprising since it's not very strong. Next year I think a stronger support system would be useful. Because it collapsed, it is still buried under the snow. This week may be enough to melt it off to see what survived.

Tatyana said...

I absolutely agree that Italian parsley is a survivor! It can look dead after the frost, but wait, it'll be back!

Michelle said...

Wow, I'm surprised anything is alive in there! Makes me shiver just looking. I'm such a weather wimp.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Just so you know, the only reason I deleted dncseattle was cause I was daft enough not to notice that there were was a repeat. My gaff - one of many I'm making today.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Daphne: I had tunnel collapse syndrome on one of my coldframes last year which is why I re-enforced (kinda) this year. If you notice, I also have large boards running across the low tunnel to keep the plastic from flying away in high winds... It is a bit makeshift this year.

Dan said...

We have had some very cold days this winter. We have had a pretty good melt here in Brantford so some of my raised beds have been exposed. Most things I left in the raised beds are still alive, broccoli, beet seedlings, flat leaf parsley, sage. The brussel sprouts I left in and wrapped in row cover, I am hoping for spring sprouts. Is this possible or will they start flowering in the spring?

Ottawa Gardener said...

Hi Dan: My brussel sprouts that I overwintered last year did grow a bit in the spring but as soon as real warm weather arrived they got pretty fluffy. Still tasted good though but more of a baby cabbage leaf texture.

Susan Tomlinson said...

Uh, that's cold. I don't think I'd survive it! :-D

It's heartening to see that some of your crops persisted, though. Gives one courage to think about how a little ingenuity and stick-to-it-tiveness can make all things possible--even greens in the middle of winter.

Leigh said...

Oh, now I just must find some bunium! It would be a gamble here but from your photo it looks like it might be worth a try. Thanks OG! I'm trying to psyche myself up to go out on snowshoes and dig through more than 3' of snow to get some carrots...

Ottawa Gardener said...

Leah, I'll send you seeds next year if I get them but my variety comes from Salt Spring Seeds. Though you know someone in HG has some!

JGH said...

So your parsely was good all winter too! I was very surprised to see that flat leaf parsely that I grew on my deck this winter was still going strong a couple of weeks ago. It didn't get much snow on it because it was almost under the roof overhang. You have lots of great edibles now for such a cold climate!

Leigh said...

Thanks OG - Salt Springs doesn't ship south of the border, so I'll check the HG board. I think I actually may have some bunium seed that I never got around to growing out, it's probably too old... (Some women have a clothes buying compulsion, I have a seed buying compulsion.) I guess I thought it might be worth a gamble, but I wasn't convinced enough of that to make the effort put the seed in the dirt!