Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Garden Project Update

Planning for my winter garden projects can often mimic planning for the actual garden itself. A long season stretches out ahead of me. In a fervor of excitement and overconfidence, I forget my work obligations, my family obligations and my budget constraints. Example: I actually printed out blueprints for a 6 foot long grape arbor, imagining I could set it up in my basement prior to the spring. A whole month of winter has gone by, and nothing has been done except lying on the couch imagining myself lounging in the dappled shade of fruit-laden vines. I have tabled that project for the moment. Anyway, that's where I want to put a chicken coop....someday. Here's the project updates, mostly to remind myself for next year, when I get carried away again.

1. Worm Bins

The worms have been relocated to the basement. They lived with us in our front hall for the first few weeks, but I was forced to send them into the netherworld of our house. First, the bin did smell. It wasn't a bad smell, but it was definitely not odorless. Before the worm bin enthusiasts jump all over this one, I promise that I did set up the bin correctly. It wasn't too wet, it had enough bedding and I was careful not to overfeed. But, I would come home after work, and my whole house was permeated with a gentle "rotting leaves" kind of smell. Not unpleasant, but also not the ambiance I'm shooting for in my living room. Second, in the interest of my worms' health, it was also better to move them a little further out of reach. Having them that close to the kitchen definitely led to the temptation to overfeed. The basement is more conducive to a weekly or biweekly burial of vegetable scrap. The rest just goes into one of our outdoor composters to freeze over until spring. The worms are just not breaking down the amount of vegetable matter that I thought they would. Maybe this is because they are new to their bin, and it is winter. I will keep an eye on this, but for now, they are barely scratching the surface of our daily compostable scraps.

2. Cold Frames

I have decided where the cold frames are going, and have measured out the area. They will get pride of place in a spot adjacent to the asparagus bed, since it gets some of the best southern sun in my garden. Something happened with the heavy rains in the fall, and this normally level section of my garden was regraded into a micro-slope. Now, I am trying to figure out how to prevent a spring bog in this little 3X5 ft area. I am probably going to dump a good amount of compost on there in the next few weeks, and let it over-rot until the spring, Lasagna-garden style.

As for the frames themselves, I have enough wood scrap around to build the base, most of it old shelving from the closet I re-organized this summer. I had planned to use some old storm windows as the top of the frame, until I started my library research. Jeff Ashton, author of The 12-Month Gardener, argues against use of recycled windows in cold frames. Kids, he warns "at some point, will climb on top of a cold frame, or kick through some other home-spun glass contraption. Apparently, the allure of a raised too much to resist...I've heard horror, animals, or adults who were cut because they fell onto the frame, climbed on top and broke through, or sat on the frame thinking the glass would hold their weight". While I do usually try to avoid the "danger at every turn" approach to parenting, Ashton's warning seems wise. I am the mother of an avid climber, and can only imagine the damage that shards of glass could do to his little legs. So, I am planning on a reconnaissance mission to the hardware store to see what types of fiberglass or plastic I might be able to use.

I think this cold frame project is in reach before the cruel winds of March roll in, and my fingers get itchy to plant radish seed. I have a whole list of other things I wish I had the time to do over the winter: the grape arbor, a home-built wooden cheese press, seed starting shelves in my sunniest window, a chicken coop for the long-awaited chickens, and, most fancifully, a small urban greenhouse. That greenhouse will likely not materialize in the next few years, but I just found a cool jar, so my son and I will create a terrarium. Right after I finish those cold frames.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the cold frames are attainable. I only wish I had never let mine slip away. They truly extend the growing season. So simple to make really... with old windows or storm doors... a good frame and you are set to go. Good luck!! Carol