Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Pushing The Limits
We did it. The frames are in! With overnight temperatures hovering between -5C & -10C, it's impossible to plant even cool weather crops this early. We could easily get more snow and temperatures will likely dip even further at least once more before things really warm up. The frames look pretty good considering they were made entirely of scrounged/repurposed materials. They are all a little different in size, simply because the material we were working with dictated the size of each box. We opted to have the lids fit in place over the frame, rather than hinge them as Kelly was worried that opening and closing them (on hinges) would lead to pinched fingers and cracked plexiglass. Smart guy :) Not to mention we'd have to buy hinges and we don't want to do that!
This protected bed is along the sunny, warm, south facing wall of our garage. Even without the benefit of cold frames in place, the soil is astonishingly workable and already thawed to a spade depth. The rest of my garden (approximately 20 feet away) is literally still under a foot and a half of snow (as evidenced in the photo below)!
The radiant heat from the foundation and the reflection of the sun's rays off the exterior wall seem to work wonders at speeding the melt/thaw in this little gem of a spot. The temp was 50C in the cold frame this afternoon (with the lid closed)! Our outdoor ambient temp is 10C this afternoon. I think this is the warmest day of 2011!
We have a really crude composting system in this garden bed. Quite literally, we dumped compostables on top of the bed in the fall and it all gradually broke down under the cover of snow over the course of our long winter. I dug it all in, but there is still evidence of our crude system. Orange peels and egg shells decorate the soil like little gems sprinkled on black velvet.
Our soil here in this part of Alberta is rich, fertile and BLACK. For this, I am thankful for as I came of (gardening) age on the West Coast. While it's beautiful and mild there (meaning a long growing season), the soil is very sandy, acidic and trying. Here on the prairie, the soil is rich and black as night. When the farmers till the land the fields look like enormous quilts. Black and green and golden blocks, all set against a brilliant blue prairie sky. It's breathtaking... and the smell! The earth here smells black (does black have a smell?). It's heady and earthy ~ almost like the soil is trying to compensate for the painfully short growing season.
But I digress.... back to the frames. I'm hopeful that they will coax the earthworms up from their deep winter sleeping place. There wasn't a single worm to be found in my digging the other day. Ah well, it's early yet ~ the worms haven't yet received the invitation of warmth given by the frames. In time, they'll come up to begin their season of hard work near the surface.
By the time these frames finish *their* work of helping me coax a little (early) fresh food from the earth, it will be warm enough to begin our planting in earnest. This little sheltered nursery bed will transform itself (naturally) into a hot bed ready to receive our waiting tomato and pepper plants all in perfect timing :)