I love that surprised look I get when upon commenting that we just had a fresh salad made out of greens picked from our garden in January. That's from our garden in MAINE in January- no heated green house nor grow lights. All it takes is Mother Nature and a little ingenuity.
We eat garden fresh vegetables all through the winter. Lettuce and spinach last until about late January, then more seeds are planted, and the new plants are ready to pick in April. Carrots, swiss chard and sorrel graced our table as well. Hardy greens like mache and claytonia thrived until going to seed in April. We love the variety of greens!
The cold frames are made from old windows and some two by eights or twelves, and placed in a couple of sunny spots near the house. In winter we keep the windows lowered at night and on especially cold days. When daytime temperatures were over 35 we propped them open so the veggies wouldn't get baked from the heat that builds up through the glass.
In the top photo are cold frames set aside for the summer. In about August we will set them up again and plant seeds. The lower photo shows cold frames that are almost empty this time of year. These will be left in place and planted with summer veggies.
Originally we heard of cold frames as a means of starting seeds earlier in the spring or for prolonging the growing season later in the fall. We thought of them like the green houses we see around Maine, lush in spring and summer but empty and dismantled through the winter. Traditional northern gardening thought is that there's not enough sunshine to garden once the fall harvest is completed. But, au contraire. Winters may be cold in Maine but there is still plenty of sunshine. Grab an atlas to check this out- here in Maine we are at the same latitude as southern France. Hey, I was skeptical too. The difference between Maine and France is that Maine has arctic weather patterns invading from Canada where France is more temperate. Using a cold frame takes advantage of the adequate sun while minimizing temperature extremes.
More on cold frame gardening in future blogs. -G.H.