Ask the Experts

When buying or replacing windows, which saves more money over the long term: single-glazed with storm windows or double-glazed?

Norman Lobb, E.C. Cottle Inc.,
Lambert’s Cove

Storm windows are fine with single-glazed [one pane of glass], but I like the look of double-glazed better – without the storm window. Look at expense: when you figure paint and everything else, I think it’s cheaper to use aluminum or vinyl windows clad with weatherproof material that doesn’t need painting, combined with insulating glass. It’s tough to get the NFRC codes. That’s the [energy-code] stamp that goes on a window to give it its rating.

With today’s codes it’s better to go with double-glazed. There’s a lot of labor with storms, starting with the initial installation and then the cleaning. So I think you’re much better off today with clad windows, an insulated window with argon gas. Clad windows with low E.R. [energy rating] are way ahead. Andersen or Marvin windows give you a twenty-year warranty.

What cold-hardy vegetables can you grow into the winter and what conditions will they need?

Jim Athearn, Morning Glory Farm,

We only do a little of it as a whimsical notion in our unheated greenhouse with a dirt floor. We tried spinach, which didn’t make growth by Thanksgiving, due to short days in early winter, but started to flourish in February, when days get long with sunlight. In the greenhouse, with no heat, the temperature can get to 65 degrees with sunlight. Growing lettuce might be okay in the greenhouse, but we haven’t tried it.

The main thing is, we don’t do any cold veggies, but we do like to extend the season. We can still have crops out in the field or greenhouse with modest heat. Lettuce grows into November. Winter squash and potatoes are fine, but lettuce and radishes bring people in to the market. We keep them growing up to Thanksgiving. Broccoli does well, but tastes different in a sheltered environment. We’ve picked it as late as New Year’s Day; it can survive freezing weather. Kale can be grown year-round. If it never went into dormancy, is in good condition, and the deer don’t get it, then it grows in the spring, sweet and juicy in March.

Does seaweed really make good mulch? If so, why?

Elizabeth Thompson, SBS, Tisbury

[For mulch] you can use anything, like straw, bark mulch, newspaper, cardboard, anything that will decompose. What you’re trying to do is keep the light away from the weed seeds, so they don’t germinate. You want it permeable, so it allows water to go in. You’re keeping the plant in a stable, moist environment.

Seaweed is a wonderful mulch. First of all it’s fun. You can go collect it, which is fun in itself because you never know what else you’ll find at the beach. It’s weed-free. Seaweed has an enzyme that enables plants to tolerate stress. Seaweed helps the plant be less susceptible to disease. It’s effective and looks good. It’s organic. It’s free. It takes away all that extra work of having to weed during the growing season. It enhances the whole little microbial universe, so there are earthworms and a whole ecosystem right under the mulch, which takes care of the soil, which takes care of the plants.

Eventually, whatever you use for mulch composts, and it keeps composting. At SBS I feel good about making available the organic stuff, the alternative farming and gardening products.

How do you prepare spring bulbs for winter forcing?

Chris Wiley, Vineyard Gardens,
West Tisbury

Spring bulbs need to be planted in fall to bloom in the spring. Bulbs colonize, develop roots, and spread out, and they last year after year if rodents don’t get them. There are three stages to prepare spring bulbs for winter forcing. One is the dormancy step, and the bulbs come in dormant in September. The second is root development, which the books say takes twelve weeks. Plant in a soil mix, and leave in a dark environment, with a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees. You can force any bulb, but some are easier to force than others. Daffodils, lilies, crocuses, and hyacinths are easier than tulips.

The third step is sprout development. Bring in the bulb, raise the temperature to 55 to 60 degrees. [Expect] twelve weeks for sprout development. Daffodils are quicker; tulips take longer. Crocuses are quickest. The easiest one is the paper-white narcissus, white or yellow, [which takes] six to eight weeks. Some bulbs are deer resistant, like daffodils and wood hyacinths. Tulips are not deer resistant. Deer love tulips.

Other bulbs are available, such as Dutch irises, anemones, snowdrops, and grape hyacinth. Allium is very popular. Favorite bulbs to force are daffodils. Hyacinths are very fragrant, blue, pink, white.”