Potager Article #6

   A series of articles presented by Candy Horton, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

As winter moves into spring, it’s exciting to have more days of warmth to get out into the garden and continue the work that I have started.  I have cleared most of the weeds and I’m starting to build some of the spaces that I have laid out on the design for my potager garden.  The compost bin is set with the first layer of brown material, ready to add green material.  I have pulled out an old cold frame that I had in the barn. I will repair it and get it set in the garden before the weekend.  I have an old cow feeder set in place and have framed out the first bed with edging stone.  Things are moving along, and I will continue to complete the garden plan.

My goal for this year is to start year round planting, growing, and harvesting produce in my garden.  With this plan I have to change how I garden.  To be successful with year round gardening in Ohio, I will need a couple of extra tools to make this a possibility.  I will need a cold frame or two, depending on how much I want to grow.  Or I can use row covers, tunnels, or a greenhouse.  I am going to try my hand with the cold frames and row covers this year.   A cold frame is usually a square or rectangular frame that has a glass top as a sort of lid and no base.  It sits directly on the ground and is filled with wonderful, healthy soil.  The glass lid allows the sun to shine in and heat up the frame.  If I don’t “vent” the frame properly during the days, the heat inside can burn the soil and my plants.  During the night the frame holds the heat inside creating a microclimate with a temperature as much as 20 degrees warmer than outside.  This is what allows these cold hardy plants to grow.  The cold frame is used to protect the plants from the snow, not the colder temperatures.  The row covers, tunnels and green houses all basically do the same thing, just in their own way.

I will then look at the plants that I want to grow and determine if they are cold hardy or will need really warm growing time frames.  Cold hardy plants are those that their best growing times are during the colder temperatures rather than the warmer season.  These plants if planted in the warmer time frames can have a bitter or sharper taste to them, but if grown during the cooler temperatures will have a very sweet and flavorful taste to them.  There are a lot of cold hardy plants that I can choose from that will keep me going all year.  For example, I can plant spinach in the cold frame in September and harvest fresh spinach all winter.  I can do the same with carrots and lettuce, too. There are lots of cold hardy plants to choose from.

Since I will be continuously planting, I am going to plant fewer plants at a time.  Through the year, I should grow the same amount that I would have last year or maybe more and they will be fresh.  For this spring, I have lettuce seedlings that once I get my cold frame repaired and in place this weekend, I will be putting these plants in the cold frame to start growing.  In a month I will direct sow lettuce and radish seeds into the old feeder to start growing.  Gathering data from the seed packages I will be able to know how long it will take from planting to harvest.  This will help me determine when I need to plant the next batch of seeds so that I will have a continual harvest of lettuce and radishes.  For the winter planting, I will then move exclusively to the cold frames for my winter crops.  I can’t wait to see how this works.

For more details and guidance on year round growing in Ohio, Dr. Tim McDermott, OSU Extension Educator for Franklin County has a lot of information on the subject.   The link is A Full Year of Growing Classes and Videos | Growing Franklin (osu.edu).  He has instructional videos, articles and a lot of good advice.   I believe that he will be talking at the Southwest Ohio Perennial School on April 13, 2023 at OSU Extension Clermont County.

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