Garden Project

Growing greens in the gray of winter.

One thing that bums me out the most about winter is the lack of fresh greens. God only knows where lettuce, kale and chard in the grocery store were grown—but it sure as hell wasn’t anywhere around here (unless you shop Chad’s Produce on Saturdays at Oasis/Golden Braid, of course). So the first thing I thought when I found a strange window box ($20) at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore was, “Hey, I could turn that thing upside down and make a cold frame with it, and maybe grow some greens this winter.” It’s turning out nice—I’ve got chard, kale, red leaf lettuce and “mixed green variety” sprouts popping up now.pax boxdown

Admittedly, I started late (mid-December), but these pics were taken mid-January, so by St. Patrick’s Day I expect to be eating fresh salad when everyone else’s greens garden is just sprouting. Next year, I’ll start in October and have greens all winter long.

In case you’re wondering, I made this contraption simply by screwing together a 2x4 frame the same size as the footprint of the window box, and pop-riveting some hinges to the back. I dug down about two feet and laid down a five-inch-deep layer of chicken manure (from our own hens!) to (theoretically) add some heat from decomposition, then filled in the rest back to ground-level with a mixture of the soil I dug out and organic potting soil. Then I planted the seeds and put the 2x4 frame and window box on top of that.

pax boxupI water it every week and a half or so. On good days, the box gets up around 85 degrees, and it typically keeps temps above freezing at night. The sprouts seem to be okay with the temps, although they are growing quite slowly.

The hoop house at Wasatch Community Garden’s downtown Grateful Tomato Garden puts my leafy escapades to shame. though. Look at this photo they posted to their Facebook page on January 27. The end of January, and those folks have some of the healthiest spinach and kale I’ve seen, winter or no. I think next year I might build something like this in my backyard.wcghoophouse

Check out the links below for a couple of neat websites on how to build a pretty decent-sized hoop house for around $200 (or less, if you hit the ReStore for basic materials).

westsidegardener.com/howto/hoophouse.html, doorgarden.com/10/50-dollar-hoop-house-green-housewasatchgardens.org, habitatsaltlake.com/restore.php

Get a jump on spring

If you are like me, you’re getting a little antsy to get out there and get growing. Sorry to say, the soil is still frozen—so here’s a great way to get your hands dirty: Go to your local garden shop and buy a bag of potting soil. Set the bag in a Rubbermaid-type plastic tub and cut the bag. Water it. Then plant some lettuce, kale and/or spinach (or other greens) and place in a warm, well lit area (preferably a south-facing window) and wait for germination. Once the seedlings have emerged—and if the weather stays warm—during the day you can place your little portable garden outside and bring it in at night to prevent freezing. Cover bin with either a old window, plastic-wrap or any other clear cover. Just beware if the temps outside get too hot you might have to crack open the lid. Enjoy an early season garden!
—Jessica Gardner (dlurbanfarms.blogspot.com)

Kenyon Organics Open House

Come browse their 2012 line of heirloom seeds, get some gardening advice or help in planning and seed selecting. Refreshments provided. Kenyon Organics is open every Saturday through mid-March from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
2750 S 1040 E McClelland St, 801-669-7540,
kenyonorganics.com

Water those trees

During dry winters such as this one, it’s important to remember to water your trees and bushes, since even during winter plants lose water through a process called transpiration. Water trees only when temperatures are above 40 degrees and only during mid-day.Care must be taken to ensure water enters the soil, and no water should remain at the soil surface that may form ice. tinyurl.com/winterwatering

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Pax Rasmussen

Pax Rasmussen

Pax Rasmussen is the managing editor at CATALYST Magazine, a chicken-herder, a dog wrangler and a burgeoning urban homesteader.

Website: www.paxrasmussen.com

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