Life in Sandpoint Idaho presents a range of seasonal challenges for a self sustaining lifestyle. From possible feet of snow, to unpredictable frosts, and the intense daytime sun and bitter cold nights all in the same day. Some plants that are perennials in most areas are annuals in ours. "The Artichoke Story" reflects one of our gardening victories.
For the first two years the rosemary, tarragon, and artichoke's we planted would die each winter barely even flowering in the previous summer. With their awe inspiring blooms, delicious heart of the thistle bud, and admirable dance with the bees, we were bound and determined to include artichokes into our space. Elise had suggested to me that if we had a cold frame we may be able to winter over with more success these "perennials" that we had found to be so challenging. I bet you have guessed by now, she was right! For two years we refined our coldframe design to weather our climate in north Idaho with great success. During those years our artichokes survived the winters with weeks of negative temperatures to grow larger and produce bigger blooms. Each winter we noticed the soil around the outside of the coldframe would freeze at least a foot deep, inside the coldframe however, the soil remained pliable creating an optimal environment for the artichokes to winter. We have also had great success growing leafy greens and herbs like parsley and cilantro in the cold frames, harvesting through the months of October to nearly the end of February. At the end of December and most of January the developed plants would slow their growth and harvesting without shocking the plants becomes tricky. By the middle of March we would need to start opening the cold frame on sunny days. Throughout April and May plants would experience more growth, enough to harvest more easily. Having leafy greens and herbs not grown in California at that time of year was liberating and exciting.
The learning curve for cold frame gardening is figuring out when and how much to vent the lid to acheive the optimal temperature range. Additionaly, the structure of the cold frame needed to be durable, efficient, and practical. It has been three years since we started makeing our cold frames designed and used in our garden. The design has remained unchanged aside from adding an option of an automatic venting system, eliminating the need to manually vent.
It is great fun to feel so emboldened in our endevours to garden with so much success. Next, I want to attempt sweet potatoes and peanuts.