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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Boxspring for Springtime ~ Part 1

When a friend offered my daughter a bed with drawers in the base, we ended up with an extra boxspring mattress. The cloth covering happened to have a tear in it, so I peeked inside. "Looks like an excellent cold frame to me," I thought...

I cut and pulled the fabric off...

...and was surprised to find the flat surface to be nothing more than cardboard. 
Hey, a matching piece of cardboard -- I can sheet mulch with it to keep weeds from growing in the cold frame -- bonus!

Here's how it looked with the fabric cover removed.

I slid it down the driveway today like a sled, and it was a piece of cake. 
Perfect conditions for boxspring relocation! 
The sun even came out briefly for the occasion.

I just happen to have a garden bed that is exactly the same dimensions as a twin bed, with drip irrigation already in place. Serendipity! I had to dig around a bit under the snow to find the boundaries of the bed, where the pine needle growing mulch meets the wood chip walking path.

Here is the naked boxspring in its new home, starting its new life. 
Next comes the makeover, which will involve: 

   - Building a slab-wood base frame
     (to keep the boxspring from rotting so quickly, 
     and to create more vertical growing space)
   - Creating two hinged panels for the roof, 
     with either growing fabric or plastic on frames
   - Adding triangular side pieces for the roof panels to rest on
   - Stapling plastic along the sides
   - Driving rebar into the ground at each corner and securing the frame
      so that it doesn't end up in a tree like last year's mini-greenhouse did...

I'll post again once I've made progress on those steps. This mid-winter project gave me the feeling of gardening again, which was a real pick-me-up on a foggy, snowy day.

Let me know if you have any mid-winter gardening projects going that help bridge the gap between frozen ground and lush green garden beds!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Eat Like a Rainbow

How do you "eat like a rainbow" in snow country... in January?
I do purchase veggies at the grocery store and co-op, but I'm always striving for a greater percentage of our vegetables to come from home. Homegrown pretty much always tastes best, is most nutritious, most fresh, and feels just right too.

Enter Radishes
Radishes alone can provide a broader spectrum of colors than you might think. In September, radishes are so plentiful in our garden that it's hard to know what to do with them all. It turns out that simply putting them in a ziploc bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge is all it takes to enjoy them when each radish seems utterly precious -- in January! Maybe next year I will try storing some in the ground with a thick layer of leaves on top, in the traditional method for winter harvest of carrots.

If my garlic cloves are getting soft, I like to pop them into a pot of soil somewhere in the house. The greens are scrumptious and you can actually plant several in one pot if you're growing them mainly for the greens and stems. Fresh green seems to be the one color in the rainbow that I miss most on my dinner plate this time of year, and garlic is a no-fuss way to keep home grown fresh green on the menu all year long! Minced garlic greens are delicious over baked potato, and in salads, soups, sandwiches... you name it.

Parsley also seems to do fairly well indoors, though it's a little more prone to insects and disease than garlic. So far so good this year. Parsley is packed with Vitamins A, C, K and folate, and also has calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese... its nutritional profile will blow you away.

Green onions will grow happily indoors with limited sunlight. These are torpedo red onions started from seed a couple years ago, and they just keep chugging. I put them on the deck in summer and bring them in before it freezes.  It doesn't matter if they go to seed since I'm keeping them going for the greens (which also provide Vitamins A, C and K). 

And how about that cabbage base I pulled out of the fridge and planted in a pot indoors toward the end of last winter? It's still going too! The greens are great in both soup and salad, or any way you enjoy cabbage.

You don't need a formed head to make use of cabbage! 
And the taste was not affected by it going to seed.

Okay, we've got green covered, but what about the rest of the rainbow? 
Well, there's pink rhubarb from the freezer...

 
...and few things are more cheerful than red peppers growing in your house in the winter. On the left is a lipstick sweet pepper from a plant that has been growing in our house for a few years now. The leaves get a bit sickly looking each winter, but I prune the plant annually and it always makes a great comeback in the spring. I think I will pick this pepper and eat it tonight in our salad! On the right is a tiny, very hot pepper from a plant I am babysitting while the owner, my neighbor, is away. I've had it for a year and it's been interesting to watch. These mini-peppers are my kind of Christmas lights!

Today I pulled out the last remnants of my partially formed red cabbage from last summer's garden. For some reason, it just wasn't a great cabbage year, but fresh purple was still a sight for sore eyes this morning after a snowstorm. I'm including this photo as a reminder for myself during the height of harvest season, about just how wonderful every home grown fresh morsel seems in the winter time.

Of course, another way to have a fresh veggie rainbow at home this time of year is in the underground cold frame. The great news is that none of the plants froze, even during our cold snaps of -5 F or -21 C. The bad news is that it looks like a war zone in there -- and in a swiss chard against rodents fight, you can guess who is winning. I also see slug sign, so I guess my slug trap needs some fresh beer. Silly me for thinking the slugs might just hibernate!

These cold frame photos were also taken today. Yes, it looks pretty sad... but actually for my first winter with this experiment, I'm just excited to have live plants that did not freeze. The only heat sources are the manure piled deep beneath this bed, and the low winter sun. The brown mulch consists of plants I chopped out of the garden in fall. The green parts are the remnants of my swiss chard and other hardy species that survived the cold but have been ravaged by the wildlife. Now that temperature isn't an issue, I'll have to work on rodent proofing with another large cage I guess. I don't call it "Vegetable Jail" for nothing. Whatever works!

Note: The name of this post comes from one of my daughter's favorite songs, by Jay Mankita (Putumayo), "Eat Like a Rainbow."

What is your favorite way to eat like a rainbow in the winter?