There is only so much room inside the house, under the lights for seed starting. As the heat loving tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers need more space, the cold tolerant vegetables get turfed out. They are living life on the edge out in the cold frame.
Running a cold frame takes hourly attention in this land of ever-changing weather. Sunny days are lovely, but tender seedlings quickly fry if the lid remains closed. Ask me how I know. Think solar oven. Other days bring their own dance of lid up, down or slightly cracked. Laying a piece of frost cloth over the open frame to block wind or bugs adds another move to the dance.
For most gardeners on the Bruce Peninsula, the rule of thumb is to start planting over the Victoria Day weekend. With our local frost free date hovering around May 20th, it’s not a bad plan. There are however a number of veggies that thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring. With a little protection, these plants can provide fresh vegetables for the table by the time the holiday rolls around.
This year, I am trying a new planting system based on the crop planning dates in Jean-Martin Fortier’s book The Market Gardener.You gotta start somewhere, and Jean-Martin knows what he’s doing. So rather than planting my entire “early garden” all at once, I am starting a few seeds each week to provide a continuous supply of produce. This approach should save us from the yearly greens glut when all of the lettuce gets ready at once and everyone is sick of salads. Repeat with the crop of your choice (bok choi, cabbage, broccoli.) I never seem to learn.
It’s really interesting to take this staggered approach to seeding. We started our tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and basil over March Break. A few days later, I seeded some lettuce, onions and cilantro. Every week, I’ve started a few more veggies: beets, leeks, Swiss chard, more lettuce, spinach, bok choi, cucumbers and summer squash. Also some more lettuce. Should I look into this lettuce fixation?
All of this is a bit challenging when juggling space under the lights for everyone. Tomatoes and tomatillos are being moved to larger pots so the same number of plants now take up twice as much valuable space under the lights. And this is all taking place in the back bedroom.
Soon a few lucky winners will take a trip out to the cold frame. But that’s another story.