May 12, 2015

Coldframes and Windowboxes: Part I of III

survivor lettuce

Have you ever tried overwintering Lettuces and Scallions in a coldframe over a heated pond?

How about growing salad greens in windowbox liners?

These experiments are new to me as of last spring, and they've been pleasantly successful, thus far. I'm breaking this series into three parts:

  • Part I: Growing salad greens in windowbox liners;
  • Part II: Construction of the coldframe; and
  • Part III: Successes, failures, and miscellaneous observations.

liners

So, Part I: Growing salad greens in windowbox liners: you know, those portable, lightweight troughs you can buy and place in your windowboxes for planting ornamentals ... windowboxes that make your windows look extra snazzy and give your house lovely curb appeal ...

Turns out, the liners make great planting mediums for salad greens, too. You can add rich, healthy potting soil and compost to give your seeds a boost. And you can start the seeds early in the season and move the troughs in and out, as needed, as the temperatures fluctuate. It's similar to raised-bed gardening, but with the additional benefit of being portable--an especially great option for those of us with shorter growing seasons and "surprise" spring and fall frosts and freezes.

I planted 'Mesclun Mix' Lettuce seeds last spring, with Scallions (Onion sets) planted around the perimeter to repel critters. I watched them sprout quickly, then harvested many cuttings through the summer, clipped them down to the base in the fall, and overwintered them in coldframes above our heated pond.

coldframe on pond
In Part II, I'll describe how the fishman constructed this mini-coldframe on top of our pond.

(The fishman gets the kudos for coldframe construction!)

lettuce rosettes
Lettuce rosettes, as seen through the plastic and condensation of the coldframe.

They survived! They remained in a state of perpetual rosette through the winter as the temperatures hovered around 32F to 45F.

moss and scallions
A new blog topic? "How to grow moss in a coldframe."

(Turns out, these are excellent conditions for growing moss, as well. In this case, I'm considering it a cover crop for my salad greens.) Once the temperatures warmed in April, I moved the trays into the sun, watched the plants grow, and started clipping greens for salads again.

kale and chard

A couple of weeks ago, I also planted 'Tuscan Baby Leaf' Kale and 'Peppermint' Swiss Chard seeds in additional troughs, placed directly in the garden.

kale

We've already thinned the seedlings, and harvested some baby Kale!

Next in this series: Construction of the coldframe. But first, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on May 15!

To see what other gardeners are growing this season, check out the Dear Friend and Gardener virtual garden club.

26 comments:

  1. I have found what you are calling window box liners (I just call them planting boxes) make very good containers. I can't quite understand why they work better than pots. I can put 4 chile pepper plants or 2 Japanese cucumbers in one and get great results. The depth is good. And you can move them around to catch the sun or shade whatever your need are.

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    1. I agree. I was having trouble getting lettuce going strong directly into the soil, so I thought this would give me a little more flexibility. It did! And the soil starts out warm and full of nutrients. I'll have to try peppers and cucumbers. Thanks for the idea!

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  2. I love my planter box liners. I have used them for salad greens in years past but I may use them again as I like the portable nature and the great idea of the onions to repel critters. We still have not constructed our coldframe...maybe someday. Running out of space it seems. I even thought about making one of the raised beds and making a cover to convert it for winter...perhaps although my hubby is not creative...he can repair, but not build. Maybe if I design it, his friend might build it...hmmmm!

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    1. I mentioned to the fishman, "Wouldn't it be nifty to be able to take advantage of the warmth of the pond to grow plants through the winter?" And he came up with the coldframe construction. It's pretty simple, although ingenious. Stay tuned for Part II! ;-)

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  3. This is a great idea, Beth! I'm always late in planting greens because I like to till up the veggie garden every spring, and it seems like the weather never cooperates soon enough. This would be so easy, and with the portability, the weather wouldn't even matter. I may copy this next year!

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    1. Ah, yes. I tend to use the no-till methods. But same problem with the delayed readiness and fluctuating weather during our changeable springs. One day it can be 85, the next 50 (with lows near 32). So, having the flexibility of being able to move the troughs is wonderful.

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  4. You are ready for your summer greens! Our cool season veggies are done for this year--I'll enjoy looking and drooling over, yours!

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    1. Yes, and fixing a salad again for tonight's dinner! Last summer, I was able to keep the greens going through the season with the cut-and-come-again method. Then I clipped them back and they survived through the winter. It was a cool summer, though. If we have a super hot summer, the greens might bolt. But then I'll simply plant seeds in the fall for winter sowing in the coldframe. Fun stuff.

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  5. That's such a great idea, and to have fresh greens this early in a cold climate...bonus.

    Lucky fish, any bugs might fall into the pond.

    Jen

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    1. The fresh baby greens are so tasty, too. :) The top of the pond has a cover during the winter. Air flows through vents on the side. The coldframe on top stays just warm enough to keep moss, onions, and salad greens alive, but not growing much.

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  6. He did a fine job making your cold frame. It was a great idea too. Great to enjoy fresh veggies when other are buying them in the store. Kudos.

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    1. Yes, the fishman is a talented one. I prefer home-grown greens whenever I can get them. We have a CSA vegetable share, too, but this assures that we have fresh salad greens through the growing season. Thanks, Donna.

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  7. We used some old windows to make a cold frame, but everything in there was decimated by leaf-eating bugs. Your experiment looks like it will be much more successful.

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    1. Oh, that would be a drag! Everything is out of the coldframe now. I might put a few things back in if we have a very cold night, but the salad greens are on their own! They seem to like the cool nights and warm days. The coldframe was great for the winter and early spring, though. I think it was just warm enough for the plants, but too cold for the bugs.

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  8. Very interesting to put the greenhouse on a heated pool! Quite clever. There is nothing like fresh garden salad, with all the nutrients. Our early spring weather is usually rainy and cool, but it's been warm and sunny this year, so I've already put some tomatoes in! The cool weather crops are doing okay, but I had to be really careful to choose seed stock that was known for not bolting early.

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    1. Yeah, it was an interesting experiment. The fishman came up with the design--I agree ingenious! I'll probably put in my Tomatoes this week. That reminds me: I need to make another trek to the garden center!

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  9. Wow... Great idea!..... Michelle

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    1. Glad you like it. :) Keep me posted on your results, too!

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  10. This would be a good idea, I have grown radishes in a old plastic tub before, good for small gardens if you have not got much space.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Yes, I have very limited sunny space. I know people say you can grow lettuce in the shade, but it grows so much better in at least partial sun. My veggie garden is quite small, and the troughs give me so much more flexibility!

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  11. Great! this is the kind of gardening I can do now, living in a city with limited space for vegetables. I am starting with some window boxes, but have now idea how things are going to turn out since I have not gardened in this warm climate for a long time. Will post soon in my blog about work-in-progress.

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    1. Yes! I think from now on I'll always have troughs of salad greens--whether I have a large garden or a small patio garden. Can't wait to hear about/see your new garden!

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  12. I should try lettuce in an inside window box sometime. I tried a window box outside last year and the squirrels gnawed through everything.

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    1. Yikes! I've had critter issues at times, too. Adding scallions around the outside seems to help. Or growing them up on a platform near the house seems to help, too.

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  13. A great idea.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Carla

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    1. You're welcome, Carla. If you try it, let me know how it goes. Fresh-grown lettuce is so tasty!

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