Oslo Garden

A blog about gardening in Oslo, Norway


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Winter salads go into the cold frame

My custom-made winter cold frame is now finally finished.

It is now primed and painted inside and out to give it the best chance of survival in snow, rain and minus temperatures.

I had intended to paint it all blue but on a rather gloomy and cloudy day I realised that painting the inside a dark colour perhaps wasn’t the best idea. A better choice would be white which might help reflect what little light there is outside on those grey days. I’m glad I did.

It soon became obvious that I’d have to replace the hinges too. In its new horizontal position the window’s original hinge mechanism was putting stress on the frame each time the window was raised and lowered. So I fitted butt hinges instead. It took time to source the right screws for the job but eventually I got there and so far so good.

Then I discovered that an aluminium trim on one side of the window frame was stopping the window from closing flush against the cold frame box.  Had I known I was going to remove the window’s hinges I could have flipped the window over. But instead  I set to carefully prizing it off using a strong set of pliers. Luckily it came away cleanly from the window frame without damaging it but it did leave glass on that side exposed. So as a precaution I glued some cut offs between the glass and frame to support the glass a little on that side.

My last challenge was finding planters. I had mistakenly assumed the shops would still have them but to my dismay I discovered that the garden centres were being emptied of their summer stock and the planters that I had intended to use had now been replaced by seasonal paraphernalia – christmas baubles, bird feeders and wreaths..!  As I watched my seedlings languishing on my window sill I desperately considered using everything from homemade grow bags made out of plastic bags to washing up bowls. Eventually I finally found some plastic containers from a well-known Swedish home store that were a perfect fit. A few holes drilled at the bottom and hey presto ready for planting!

When it came to transplanting the seedlings some had grown rather leggy and were a bit tricky to plant out. Too much time spent on a warm window sill. Not ideal. Still, I’m hoping they will recover sufficiently and grow into healthy robust plants. It’s just a relief to finally get them in. Now let’s see what happens.

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The Winter Garden Experiment

Brrrrrrrrr. No, there hasn’t been a sudden snowfall in Oslo…. but it’ll be here before too long!  Oslo is generally classified to be in hardiness zone 6a though I have also seen it classified as 7a. So a good dump of snow is not uncommon over winter here. Typically you’d expect it to be on the ground for about three months each winter.20150326_093937This dormant period in gardening has been something I’ve relished, if I’m honest. It’s usually a time to recharge the gardening batteries, review the past growing season and look forward to the coming one. Lots of time is spent drooling over seed catalogues online and planning the next year’s garden. However this year, for some reason, I have an itch to do more and, not only that, attempt to do something I’ve never tried here before: garden in the winter!

Pioneers of four season gardening like Eliot Coleman have developed ways to extend the food growing season into winter. He, and many growers particularly in Canada and northern states of the US, have inspired me to try growing my own food over winter here too.

As yet, I’ve not come across anyone else who is doing this in my area so I can’t draw on any local experience. So I’m just going to have a go and see what comes of it. The first thing I need to consider is where I will be grow my veg. I need a protected growing space and I don’t have the luxury or space for a greenhouse. So I will be using a cold frame.

Protected environments, like cold frames, can create a growing environment equivalent to one or even two zones warmer than the one outside, so this increases the possibility of extending the growing season. Even still, I’m not expecting a lot to be growing in the most coldest period. I can hope for some harvests throughout the winter until temperatures begin to rise in March and April whereupon the vegetables will begin to grow again in earnest. With the plants having such a head start in growing, before the main growing season kicks in, it’ll hopefully be possible to start harvesting sooner too.

To keep things relatively simple for my first experiment, I’m focussing on growing a range of cold hardy salads and oriental vegetables suited to (and that prefer) growing in cooler temperatures.

List of vegetables I will attempt to grow:

Rucola (Salad Rocket)

Winter Purslane (Claytonia)

Lambs Lettuce (Corn Salad)

Cerbiatta Lettuce

Merveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce

Red Giant Mustard leaf

Mizuna

The idea is that you sow seeds in late summer and the plants have time to grow to a decent size by the time winter arrives, whereupon they are then ready to harvest over that period.

Last week I sowed some seeds from each of these varieties, into modules with some potting compost and vermiculite. I’d probably left it a bit later than optimal to sow but……

…luckily within two days most had germinated!!IMG_6294I was amazed; I’d never seen anything germinate so quickly.  It kind of caught me off guard.

So now I’d better get my skates on and get busy with the next step: Making the cold frame….!