Growing Greens and Storing Harvest in Cold Weather

John Wilson

Members of the Tweed and District Horticultural Society were happy to attend the first meeting for 2018…..a sign that spring is coming in spite of the mounds of snow and the Groundhog’s predication of six more weeks winter! Elizabeth Chrurcher shared her experiences using a cold frame and John talked about how he stores his garden produce.

Elizabeth has been member of the Tweed Horticultural Society for over 10 years and served as its President for the past two years. John is the former owner of the organic blueberry patch in Tweed.

Through various methods, Elizabeth is able to enjoy food from her garden throughout the year. She has a cold cellar where she stores beets, carrots, onions and potatoes. Her freezer is filled with beans, corn, garlic scaps, broccoli, pesto, asparagus, pears, zucchini, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches (she admitted that she does not grow peaches!!!), apples, pumpkin and black currents. Her shelves are laden with preserves….beets, dill pickles, salsa, applesauce, chili sauce and tomato sauce. She also dries herbs from her garden…sage, lemon thyme, oregano. Some herbs are kept on her sun porch throughout the winter in pots.

In spite of all the food from her garden, Elizabeth really wanted to have fresh spinach, lettuce, and other greens during the winter months. Her solution…build a cold frame. Using the book, Year Round Vegetable Gardener by N. Jabbour, Elizabeth set out the construct a cold frame.

She highlighted both her successes and areas that are still a “work in progress”….

-use a southern slope and sink the frame into the soil

-use cedar not treated wood to build the frame

-mix compost and aged manure to within 6inches of the top and add mulch to fill to top

-greenhouse plastic….if you can get some

-need to vent….open for part of the day

-watering…let rain do it….can’t get too wet

-brush off snow with a broom

-pick greens at mid-day

-planted….spinach, lettuce (make sure you get the kind of seed that is winter hardy), kale, argula

-plant in early-mid September….will last until early March

-due to very cold weather in December/January of this year, the cold frame did not produce the abundant crop that was harvested in past winters….but it is all a learning experience, according to Elizabeth!!!

John Wilson shared his ideas and practices for storing food from his garden over the winter months. A cold cellar/root cellar needs air circulation and the humidity should be maintained between 85%-95%. 

John’s “Show and Tell” presentation gave the members an opportunity to see the potatoes, carrots, leeks and beets that he has stored in his cold cellar. Cabbages do very well in a cold cellar….they can even be hung. John recommended that potatoes should develop a tough skin before they are placed in the root cellar. Sweet potatoes can keep for almost a year as long as they are “cured” in warm soil for 10-14 days. Sweet potatoes like warm temperature so they are not recommended for cold cellars….simply keep them in a milk crate or cardboard box in a cupboard with 60 degree temperatures.

John plants lots and lots of tomato…..before freezing he suggests removing the core and simply freezing in plastic bags until you are ready to use them for salsa, chili sauce etc. Too many green tomatoes….place in warm dark room or cover with newspaper to ripen.

John uses a dehydrater to dry some of his vegetables, for example zucchini. Samples of John’s zucchini chips were enjoyed by members.

Both Elizabeth and John’s love of gardening was evident throughout their presentations…they love experimenting with different crops, they enjoy the healthy choices that their gardens provided all year and maybe, just maybe a young child will ask them, “Can you show me how to garden?”


 March 6 ….Deanna Groves and John Reidl, owners of Quinte Botanical Gardens will discuss their gardens and the overall plan for their property in the future.

March 9… Bus Trip to National Home Show and Canada Blooms at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Cost…$65.00. Tickets must be purchased by February 24th. Price includes admission to both shows and motor coach. Bus leaves Tweed at 7 am from the parking lot behind Quinn’s of Tweed. For more information, contact Linda @613-478-6850


March 9-18…National Home Show and Canada Blooms at Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto

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