Growing Plants under Cover - col frames for vegetables
At this time of year, when I am starting off my vegetable and salad seeds, and the weather blows hot and cold, rainy and sunny, I realize how useful my cold frames are - the added protection starts the little plants off so much better than just sowing in the ground and hoping everything will be all right.
If you are new to vegetable gardening, you’re probably thinking ‘what on earth is a cold frame?’ well, let me explain, and perhaps add a lot to your gardening pleasures.
I raise many of my seeds in a small electric ‘window sill’ propagator which warms the seeds and gets them going (although, if you have one without a temperature control, you have to remember to switch it off on a warm day).
But I then have quite a lot of very tender baby plants which would simply die if put straight into the garden, so this is where my faithful cold frames come in.
Cold frames look like the sort of glassed in showcases you used to see in stores in which anything extra pretty, or expensive could be displayed - glass at the back and sides and glass top which lifts up. Nowadays the extra cute goodies are on line and all that lovely glass has a much better use protecting your little plants from the harsher elements.
You can, of course, start small with a plastic or glass ‘cloche’. There are many varieties (and prices) and a visit to your local garden store will be very useful in choosing what suits your climate, needs and pocket. These plant covers were originally big blown glass bells (hence ‘cloche’ from the French) but those are now very expensive and do little good. The special thing about a cold frame is that as it is usually quite large (mine are 2’ x 4’), it remains in the same place and the soil beneath it is already warmed and protected. It is also quite generous in area, so compared to the two, three or four pots you could nestle under a cloche – you can get two or three dozen small pots in a large cold frame.
You can grow and ‘harden-off’ your small plants in a cold frame, opening the lid on warm days (and remembering to close it again on chilly nights!) and then plant them in your garden with so much more success, so, if you are thinking of serious vegetable and salad growing – have a look at some cold frames, they are well worth it!
You can even make your own as these websites explain; www.humeseeds.com, www.motherearthnews.com or you can buy them on line: www.mastergardening.com.