Did I mention that there's a greenhouse outside?
I should have said something sooner, I know, but I'm just as surprised as you are. It's been a long time coming—since that crazed Saturday in August when I began planting for winter—but still, every time I glance outside, I can hardly believe it's there.
There were a few setbacks, to be sure. A tree fell on the garden in the midst of clearing the way; Grower's Supply sent the wrong size plastic, and a very short door frame, too. Damp leaves squashed a row of scallions; the carrots were planted too late; and the Vietnamese cilantro succumbed to cold before it could be ushered in.
But for a first try, I have to say I'd call the experiment a success. The spinach sprouts new leaves every day, the lettuce has begun to spiral, and the kale, though small, shows promise. The surviving brussel sprouts are just about ready for picking, and the radishes are gaining inches and leaves at an exponential rate.
Part of this, of course, is thanks to the seeds. The lettuce is a four season variety, the spinach a winter bloomsdale, and the radishes cold-loving nero tondo. But the stretch of plastic helps, too. On those nights when the temperature dips into the 30s and 40s, the garden sits warm beneath its watch.
We aren't quite there yet—next year, I'll plant with more organized walkways, I'll start the seedlings earlier, and I won't worry so much over density. I'll seed directly in the greenhouse for the more delicate plants like scallions and spinach, and I hope we'll have a real door. But all in all, for $800, I'd say it's an investment bound to pay off. In a January salad, that is.
BUYING & ERECTING A GREENHOUSE/COLD FRAME
We bought our kit from Grower's Supply. I can't say I'm raving about it—they got most of our order wrong, and then charged us extra for doing so. But, in the end, when we got the right pieces, it was quite a good kit. If you order from them, be sure to double check EVERYTHING on the phone. And order far in advance, and check the parts when you get them, before you start to build, just in case. That will save you a lot of frustration.
The construction is not a small project. It will take 2 able bodied people at least 2-3 days to complete. But once the frame is up, it's up, and taking the plastic on and off as the seasons change is easy.
Don't expect to erect the greenhouse over your plants. We did manage that, but I recommend putting it up in the spring, before you plant. Then you can plant your early seedlings inside, remove the cover when the weather gets nice, and put it back in place when it starts to get cold again. Winter seedlings (except the fragile ones) can be planted in trays, and then moved into the greenhouse once the summer plants have run their course and been pulled up, and the soil composted.
As for options besides plastic, there is a company called Moveable Greenhouses that makes gorgeous glass greenhouses out of Rockland, Maine, but they carry a hefty price tag. If I could afford to buy one, I would, but they are most certainly out of the range of the average grower. Someday, perhaps—it never hurts to dream.
Until then, good luck and happy planting!