Cold Frame Disappointments

With everything going on around the holidays the winter garden has been a little neglected the last 2 or 3 weeks.  I had the day off today and took some time this afternoon to see what was happening with the plants growing in all three cold frames and the hoop house.  I’m happy with a few things but really disappointed by a few others.  Let’s start with the good stuff.

I pulled the lids off cold frame #1 which is full of carrots.  Things inside this frame look really good.  The plants are healthy and seem to be holding up well.  You can see one of the lettuce plants that I left growing in that frame has been killed but the carrots look great!


Cold frame #2 has ½ of the planting area in spinach.  The plants were really stunted in the fall by leaf miners, but after I dealt with that problem they seem to have recovered.  These plants are mostly still small but I hope they will over winter well and be some of the first produce picked in early spring.  About 6 weeks from now when the sun really starts coming back they should take off and grow well.

The other side of cold frame #2 is our first disappointment.  Despite our best efforts the lettuce in this frame is falling victim to the super cold weather we have been having.  The lows have been down in the teens for several weeks and the plants are dying off despite the extra protection of the floating row covers and the added help from the bottles of water.  I will leave these plants in until spring and see if they recover but I’m not hopeful.  Next year this space will be given to spinach or Swiss chard, crops I know will survive the winter.  You can see the two small rows of Chard on the right are doing really well.

You can see cold frame #3 is having the same problems.  The lettuce we tried to protect has given up.  On the other side of this frame we have some Mache and Claytonia that is coming along well.  I hope as the sun returns over the next few weeks that this will take off and give us a few good salads.  The sorrel on the right has also lost most of its leaves to the cold.  The sorrel plants will recover in the spring and produce new leaves but it is done for now.

The biggest disappointment comes in our hoop house.  We planted the entire bed to carrots.  They have been doing really well but I picked a lot about 2 weeks ago and I haven’t looked in since.  The super cold weather really has hurt this crop.  You can see how bad the tops look compared to the ones in the cold frame.  Also the roots seem to be really damaged and frozen.  We will see if they recover.  This hoop house is in an area that doesn’t get any sun for about 6 weeks of the winter.  I guess the cold was just too much even for carrots.

So I guess I will just have to live and learn.  A lot of what I was doing was experimental this year so I expected some of it not to survive, but it is still a little disappointing.  2012 is just around the corner so I’ll just have to try again next year.


  1. kitsapFG December 28, 2011 7:30 am Reply

    I can never overwinter lettuce during the coldest part of the winter. The leaves are just too tender and succulent to hold up to really prolonged and deep freezes. Lots of other good candidate greens though that can do the job. I always have losses in the winter beds no matter what I do for planning and care – just part of the hazards of cold weather gardening. The survivors though make it all worthwhile!

    • Rick December 28, 2011 8:23 am Reply

      I thought it was worth a try, I have a friend who has had some success in our area. Next year I’m going to stop experimenting and focus on plants I know will survive the cold.

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