I’m fortunate to live in an area where it doesn’t get terribly cold during the winter–or at least, it doesn’t stay cold for very long. Four-season gardening is possible here without the aid of a greenhouse (although who would say no to a greenhouse?), although I find it does help to have row covers or a cold frame.
I built my cold frame out of cast-off parts from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and in a future post I’ll show you how I did it. But for now, I’ll show you what’s going into my cold frame these days: salad bowl gardens.
A salad bowl garden, as one might suspect, is simply a large container potted up with a variety of edibles, most especially greens, that one might find in a salad. The one I’ve just planted up is comprised of ‘Red Sails’ lettuce and directly-seeded arugula.
How to Create a Salad Bowl Garden
Any garden container or other food-safe container can be used for planting; I have seen these gardens cleverly planted in old colanders (no need to punch drainage holes).
- If your container has one large drainage hole, cover the hole with a bit of a broken pot, a bit of gravel, or a folded paper coffee filter. The idea is to keep the soil from washing out of the bottom. If you’re using a colander or something similar, with many small holes, you don’t need to bother covering them. If your container doesn’t have a hole, drill one, but be sure to use a drill bit that matches the material your container is made of.
- Fill the container two-thirds full with a mixture of potting soil and compost.
- Blend in some organic slow-release fertilizer to nourish whatever you are planting. Greens, like lettuce, spinach, kale, or chard, need plenty of nitrogen to fuel leafy growth. Look for a fertilizer with with a relatively high first number, such as 12-0-0 (blood meal), to provide sufficient nitrogen. In my 12-inch clay pot, I mixed in about 1 tablespoon (1 Tbsp.) of blood meal.
- Remove your transplants and arrange them in your container. If you are pulling seedlings out of a flat, like those pictured below, pull the plants gently by their seed leaves (the first set of leaves to appear). Never handle seedlings by their stems, which are fragile and will bruise or break easily.
- Fill the container the rest of the way up with compost, firming gently around the transplants.
- Water thoroughly, until water drains out of the drainage hole.
- Mulch if desired.
- Depending on the amount of exposure to cold your seedlings/transplants have had, you may need to harden them off. Set the bowl outside in a sheltered spot for an hour, then bring it back inside. Each day, increase the amount of time the container spends outdoors. After about 10 days, you can put the salad bowl container in your cold frame or under horticultural fabric.
It has been said not infrequently (and with ample cause) that only in America do people line up to trample one another for bargains the day after giving thanks for what they already have.
I couldn’t be dragged to the shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving if you hitched me up to a tractor. But the occasion of Black Friday did get me wondering: What would be the horticultural equivalent of a doorbuster deal? Can you conceive of a gardening bargain that might make you get out in the frosty air with a sleeping bag and camp out next to the nursery’s door?
Magnolia stellata: Buy one, get one free?
Compost: Free while supplies last; bring your own shovel?
Conifers, 90% off?
What’s your gardening bargain fantasy?
Wherever in the world you are, I hope you are happy, healthy, warm, and well-nourished.
Cyclamen are gorgeous, delicate plants. They bloom in winter when little else does. And bittster tells me it isn’t hard to grow them from seed. So he and I went in together on a seed order from Green Ice Nursery, and the seeds arrived not long ago (along with a little gift).
The live plants are tucked into their spaces in the garden, and now it’s time to sow some seed.
Instructions for multiple methods to start cyclamen from seed may be found on the Internet. I’m going to try them all (though not in a terribly scientific way).
The first and easiest method is simple winter sowing, or Letting Mother Nature Take Her Course.
Cyclamen need dark to germinate. I am beginning with dark plastic pots, filled with coir. I water the coir and pack it into the pot, using another clean pot to tamp it down:
The seeds are quite small. These are of Cyclamen hederifolium. I don’t know if there is a variety or cultivar name, but the nursery describes them as “extreme dark purple flowers.”
The packet came with 10 seeds, so I’m trying this method on five.
I potted the seeds, covered them with a thin layer of coir, and watered them in, passing them back and forth a few times under the fine spray from my kitchen faucet.
Then the pot goes outside on my deck, to suffer the elements and wait until spring.
Today we’re expecting to see the edge of a winter storm, with cold rain definite and freezing rain possible. That should get them off to a good start. We’ll check back in three to six months, which is how long it may take them to germinate.
A little further spelunking in the depths of the Internet reveals the following recipe for mixing one’s own John Innes formulations. I will try them this spring.