Most people harvested their last tomatoes, peppers and winter squash a long time ago. I love gardening this time of year. I feel like I am cheating. I have vegetables growing outside under a cold frame in below freezing temps.
It’s more of a challenge to garden in the fall. Sorta. I mostly just leave them alone and water them every once in a while. That’s not that hard. The growing is much slower with cooler temps, though. A lot of patience is required.
I have had tsatsoi growing in there since August. I’ve never grown it before, and I wondered how it would hold up. I figured it was much like cabbage or kale or something like that, and only gets better after a freeze. That is because the plant starts producing more sugar to protect itself as the temperature gets closer to freezing. Sugar has a lower freezing point than water, so the more sugar the plant produces, the lower the temperature it can survive. That’s why kale is always better after a freeze.
Last night, I harvested some tsatsoi to use in stir-fry. I saw that my radishes and beets are still plugging along. Maybe, if the weather isn’t super cold over a long period of time, I’ll have some for salads this winter. A few years back, I planted some lettuce in a cold frame, and right after, it got really cold for two weeks or more. I figured the seedlings were dead and forgot all about them. Then, the early spring, I noticed some bright green under the cold frame. The lettuce had not only survived the winter, but was right on schedule when the weather finally warmed up just a little bit for spring salads.
This cold frame is super easy to set up. The raised beds are there all the time. I simple stick some 24-inch pieces of rebar in the corners, and slipped some tubing over the pieces. Then stretch some plastic, which I bought at Green’s Feed and Seed, over the hoops, and staple it along the sides. You’re ready to go at that point. You can find lots of plans for making similar set ups on the Internet. When the spring growing season rolls around, you just take it all back down and store it for next winter.
With the cold frame, I can get at least a couple more months out of the growing season, and more cool weather vegetables. When you enjoy growing vegetables as much as I do in my backyard, that’s just more opportunity to do what you love.