I learned the hard way that a lot of gardeners get a start on gardening – like ordering seeds – in January, so I figured it’s a good time to share my cold frame garden bed update! Sure, there’s snow on the ground but it’s time to start thinking about gardening now. I was really late to start my vegetable and herb gardening last year and it was a bit of a mess. But despite many setbacks, I did manage to grow quite a bit and now I know what I need to do differently, so today I am sharing my two cents and my cold frame garden bed update. All of you seasoned gardeners are welcome to chime in and tell me where I went wrong! I am going to try to grow a better garden this year, so I welcome any advice.
Did I Enjoy Gardening?
Let’s get this out of the way, lol. No! I hated it! I loved building (and then charring) the frames and designing how they looked. That, for me, is the fun part! But once I shovelled the soil in (which was gruelling and awful work), it was infinitely less fun for me.
Although I did feel a little “spark” of pride as seeds became leaves, that joy was short lived when I experienced some immediate flops…
Why didn’t I take to gardening? Well, I don’t have a green thumb, for starters, so this whole project was a struggle for me. I hate touching bugs, I hate weeding, I was super disappointed when things didn’t grow, and I had zero interest in reading up on it – even though I bought some great books. BUT I did feel a lot of pride again once we finally grew tasty things and I could serve a bean side dish with beans I grew and make yummy dill and cheese sconces (here is the recipe) with dill I grew.
Plus you know how proud I was of the the sage pesto recipe I shared recently.
A lot of things taste terrible from the store (dill among them), so I did enjoy how delicious it was to eat things right from the garden. I’ll keep doing it, but this isn’t a hobby I currently love. It’s not saving money, either, but it will (hopefully…eventually…) provide us with a steady source of quality produce.
Everything I Planted & How it Grew:
Left Hand Bed:
- Sage (yes)
- Crown Pumpkin (sorta)
- Parsnips (no)
- Carrots (sorta)
- Drunken Woman Lettuce (yes)
- Mache Corn Salad (yes)
- Bok Choy (sorta)
- Cauliflower (no)
- Peppers (no)
- Peas (sorta)
- Summer savoury (sorta)
- Land cress (sorta)
- Rainbow chard (yes)
- Potato (no)
- Strawberry (no)
- Winter thyme (sorta)
- Ice bred arugula (sorta)
- Arugula (sorta)
- Bok Choy (sorta)
- Golden berry (no)
Right Hand Bed:
- Dill (yes)
- Space Master Cucumber (yes)
- Palestinian Kusa Summer Squash (yes)
- Beets (no)
- Dry Bean Black Turtle Beans (yes)
- Mint (sorta)
- Red Cabbage (no)
- Napolento Basil (sorta)
- Bush Bean Black Valentine (yes)
- Bush Bean Gold Rush (yes)
What Grew Well in My Cold Frame Garden Beds:
As you can see, I had a lot of failure! Let me share a little more in detail, for anyone who is curious. First, let me share what grew well in my cold frames. I was very successful with:
- Beans (all were really successful!)
- Rainbow Chard
- (Some) Lettuces and Arugula (technically grew, but bugs ate many)
The squash hid on me and grew really giant! But still delicious and I’ll grow this kind again.
Chard was the one leaf bugs HATED so while my arugula and bok choy were decimated, these grew super well.
Szuka kicked around seeds before I got the lids on my garden beds so many of my herbs were messed up thanks to her, lol, but dill and basil and sage grew well!
I LOVE using fresh herbs in pretty much everything I cook, so I want to get serious about growing more herbs this year.
I LOVED growing beans! They didn’t take up much space, they grew really well, and were super tasty. I preferred the yellow, only because they were easy to spot. I was so surprised just how many beans we got from a couple small rows – bowls and bowls full, and for weeks we were harvesting them! I’ll definitely grow them again and do more rows because they performed well.
What Had Mixed Results:
- Cucumber (grew slow and stumpy and ran out of time)
- Mint (grew, except Szuka had kicked the seeds around so there wasn’t much)
- Basil (was slow growing, only a tiny clump)
- Thyme (also grew slow and not much)
- Arugula and Poc Choi (grew super well but bugs ate)
- Peas (grew well, but not enough)
- Carrots (small and slow growing – only a few actual carrot sized carrots, but chooks loved the tops)
What Didn’t Grow at All:
Basically, my most interesting things didn’t grow!
- Blue pumpkins (they grew but too late in the season and froze)
- Golden berry
- Red Cabbage
How to Fix my Cold Frame Gardening Woes:
First, I’ll plant more of what worked! And then I might ditch some crops I knew would be a struggle and proved me right. I ordered seeds willy nilly because it was fun – I’ll pay more attention to what will grow best in my “zone”. I’ll start earlier, with better soil, and mind the garden beds don’t overheat. I’ll also treat for bugs naturally. Here are my tips from learning the hard way, for any gardening newbies!
Tip #1: Get Your Supplies Early
Because of the raging pandemic, a lot more people got into gardening and there was a severe lumber shortage here and many other cities. And because of shields going up in stores and the like, the price of Lexan (what we used for the lids) skyrocketed and supply dwindled. Plus the automatic lid openers that were key to our plan were really, really backordered. Because timing is everything for gardening, don’t do what I did and decide to garden last minute. Round up those supplies (especially seeds!) early – and get building!
Tip #2: Enrich Your Soil
As a new gardener, my soil was just topsoil I got by the truckload and added some fertilizer to, so it really wasn’t really top notch. I think this year I’m going to really work to improve the quality of my soil. My great uncle, who really had a great vegetable garden, apparently used miracle grow all the time. I might try that or something similar – I’ll definitely have to get into composting too, to make my soil as healthy as possible.
Tip #3: Get Automatic Lid Openers
By the time I built my DIY cold frame garden beds it was hot and the automatic lid openers we bought were back ordered so I think I cooked some of my seeds! I also think I didn’t water them enough – I underestimated just how HOT it could really get under the Lexan lids! But now I know and the beds are built – and automatic openers in place – so I will be ready to utilize the heat to start my seeds earlier and then be ready when it gets too hot with my Plan B.
Tip #4: Get a Plan B if it Gets Too Hot
Once we realized the garden beds COOKED under the lids, we started leaving them fully open during the day and then closing them at night, which was a hassle. So I think this year we’ll build a second set of lids, with a hooped frame and mesh, to keep animals from eating the crops, but then give the gardens some ventilation – and access to overnight showers – during the hottest part of the summer. Plus some crops just outgrew the shallow lids. Stay tuned for that upgrade this spring!
Tip #5: Don’t Underestimate Bugs
I sort of had this stupid idea that bugs wouldn’t be a huge issue under the Lexan lids. I was wrong. Some wormy things (I think) decimated a few of my “crops”. They loved poc choi and HATED chard. This year I will need to treat for bugs and am looking into organic options for that.
Tip #6: Don’t Be Discouraged
Sometimes things just don’t grow! Even experienced gardeners consoled me and told me some things don’t grow – bad seeds, bad luck, who knows? I am going to keep track of which company’s seeds did well and try to order from them again, in case it was an issue of some companies selling better seeds than others (I bought seeds from a LOT of different places because so many were mostly sold out by the time I ordered).
Tip # 7: Keep Notes
I made a detailed sketch of the gardens – and forgot to do one, so I had to figure out what was there which was difficult. But other than that little mistake, I kept notes on what grew and what didn’t so ordering seeds this year I will be more knowledgeable. Without notes I surely would have forgotten! I’ll keep track of my progress, what works and what doesn’t, and tips I pick up along the way so that I can continue to grow (haha) as a gardener and build on this tiny bit of progress and success.
Don’t Forget to Pin For Later: