Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Spring seed starting...cold frames...

 In the Garden (soon)...

We have a new big surprise coming to the farm but it did not arrive when it was supposed to!  It should be coming this next week...fingers crossed...  Since the new surprise is not happening yet, I thought I would spend a little time explaining how I start seeds for the garden.  I like to start seeds indoors and then harden them off in a cold frame outside.  

To begin, I start the seeds in the Stack and Grow Light system that we purchased from Gardener Supply.  I have purchased seedling heated mats to put under the plants so the soil is warmed up so that seeds will sprout.  Here is a pic of the Stack and Grow...it was not cheap but we purchased it over 3 years...3 years of Christmas gifts to be exact...it has 4 levels of lights...
Here are some tiny greens!  Aren't they cute!  I think they are adorable.  I started them inside and then I plant them out into the cold frame.  I am so happy to say that all these greens are from seeds that I saved last year!
I actually put some soil into one half of the cold frame and then plant some of the greens directly into the soil in the cold frame.  I know this is not the best pic but you can see them starting to grow.  In this pic, there is spinach at the top and then one I call Crispy Green and then some red leaf lettuce.  Then, there are a few rows of green and red leaf lettuce and the bottom row is arugula.  I should have lettuce to eat in early May from the cold frame.  I also planted greens directly into the garden and they will grow slower because they do not have the warmth that is generated from the cold frame during the day.  This is kind of like staggering the plantings...as soon as it gets too hot for the greens in the cold frame, the greens in the garden should be ready to eat.
Here are some seedlings that I have in the Stack and Grow.  "Egg" stands for eggplant (because I am too lazy to write the whole word)...I won't put these out into the cold frame until there are no freezing temps at night.
Here is a pic of the 2 cold frames I have.  I just ordered another one...I just LOVE these things!  I only use them in the spring to get things started and then when I am finished with them, I put them away for the summer.
In the cold frame on the left, I have mostly brassicas...broccoli, cauliflower, kale, swiss chard, and cabbage.  I put the cover on them at night.  They can withstand the cold temperatures at night so they can stay out here.  If it would get really cold (in the 20'sF), I will bring them inside for the night.  It usually works out that I can plant these out into the garden about the time that the eggplant and pepper plants will be ready to come out to the cold frame so I just rotate the plants through the cold frame to harden them off. 
Another project I have going in the house is the propagation of sweet potato slips.  This is my last attempt to grow sweet potatoes!  We don't really have enough heat in north Idaho to grow them but I keep trying!  The first year we moved to the farm, I ordered sweet potato slips.  I got them planted and they grew but we did not really get any sweet potatoes.  The second year, I ordered slips again but they were half dead when I got them.  I got my money back.  Sweet potato slips are quite expensive!  Last year, I decided to make my own slips.  That worked fine BUT I neglected them when I got them planted out in the garden.  I decided to see if I could grow the sweet potatoes in the cold frame but it was WAY too hot and I didn't get enough water to them because I was just busy with everything else.  
The fourth time is the charm...maybe?  I got the slips going again this year and I am potting them up so they will be good sized plants to transplant as soon as the weather warms.  I am much more hopeful this year.  I know they look a little yellow in this pic but I think it is mostly the lighting.  I am going to give them some fertilizer here soon.  I tried 3 different kinds of sweet potatoes to make the slips but really only the purple skinned sweet potatoes made good slips.  I am glad I decided to get several to try!
Back to the cold frames, last fall, I planted spinach in the garden.  It started growing and then the cold weather came.  I put the cold frames OVER the spinach in the garden for the winter.  I did not harvest the spinach in the winter, it was just to give the spinach a layer of protection and now it is starting to grow again...here is a pic of the spinach in the cold frame in February.  I have taken the cold frame off now and I cut back the spinach and I am waiting for new growth to happen...
I am starting flowers and more vegetables each week.  I am going to expand the flower growing area.  Here is a pic of the grassy area that Henry sprayed for me to help kill the grass.
I am going to plant "everlasting" type flowers here...we will see how this goes...I may be biting off more than I can chew...

Next, I will be starting tomatoes and the sunflowers will also be happening soon!  Also, some trees started showing up in the mail.  I had ordered these last fall and kind of forgot about them but now it is time to get them planted!  What are you growing this spring?

Have an eggcellent day!


  1. Denise here is a link for studies on sweet potatoes