Cold-Framing It...

This spring has been the year of the cold-frame.  I convinced Woodman that I desperately needed a large cold-frame that sat over my smallest raised bed.  I came home from work one afternoon to find, much to my delight, that he had made the perfect cold-frame, it was sitting in the back of the truck, ready to be moved into place.  Lucky me!

I promptly helped Woodman move the frame and rushed to the garden supply store the next morning to find a soil thermometer.  This purchase officially nudged me into the garden geek category.  I now eagerly check the temperature of the soil under the cold-frame, watching it slightly fluctuate with the changes of weather.  It stays between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, rarely does it drop below.

Thanks to Woodman's ingenuity and my nagging-wife demands, I am able to extend the planting season for tender things (like greens) a month earlier and one to one-and-a-half months later, depending on the weather.  I have planted all of my early salad greens, some by seed, other by starts into the bed and watch with eager anticipation for the seedlings to sprout.

It was hard to choose varieties of lettuce, there are so many that I love, narrowing the selection down seems to be a daunting task.  I honestly had highlighted the whole lettuce section in my seed catalogue, and gasped at the thought of how much I had planned to spend just on lettuce seeds!  (If only I could buy and try all of it, I would!)  I fell in love with a variety called Yugoslavian Red.  It is almost extinct.  A single family in Yugoslavia has been growing it in Marburg, Yugoslavia for several generations and were able to sell the seeds which are now being sold by a few seed companies.  It is the very description of Heirloom!  It is a butter lettuce that can grow to a foot across and had deeply puckered leaves that are bright green and tinged with red.  These little seedlings have sprouted and I eagerly watch them grow each day.  I can hardly wait to make a Yugoslavian Heirloom Salad for my family!!!

I planted one of my standby favorites called Forellenschluss.  This is a specialty gourmet heirloom from Austria.  It's name means "speckled like a trout" and has long beautiful romaine type leaves.  It is green with red speckles all up the leaves.  It makes a very good salad, the leaves also keep really well in the refrigerator and are not prone to wilt.  I love this lettuce!

Winter Marvel was a new variety that I decided to try.  It is a butterhead that is relatively tolerant to cold. It was the first seed to sprout and is well ahead of the other types that I planted, probably because it doesn't mind the cold so much.  It is a good, basic variety that will mix well with other lettuces.  I was curious to see how late in the season I could get it to grow, I guess we will find out this fall!

Seeing as we are smack dab in the desert, I thought I should try a heat tolerant lettuce.  I hate it when July rolls around and my lettuce all bolts and turns bitter.  Larissa is a strong medium green lettuce that doesn't fall apart when the heat is on, supposedly.  We will see how it tolerates Utah heat!

In the back of the frame, I have planted some organic spinach, organic Bright Lights Chard, and some Organic Chinese Cabbage that is quite tender.  I thought that the warmth from the cold-frame would get things going so that we could harvest a little earlier.  Let's keep our fingers crossed!!!

I have so many that I want to try.  I will be planting some Tom Thumb lettuce as soon as I can get starts. It is, just as it's name implies, tiny.  I planted it last year and loved the delicate buttery leaves.  It is a keeper in my eyes, and an heirloom, which is even better!  There is a little garden store in Salt Lake called Traces (1432 South 1100 East) that sells heirloom tomatoes and other heirloom plants.  Expect to see me there in the next couple of weeks, prowling like a cat and piling the back of my poor dirt crusted car with all kinds of interesting things!


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