Sunday, October 21, 2012

Project Cold Frame

We have had a hiccup in our plans to continue building up Chez Reece as Al got laid off from his job just over a week ago.  Aside from being unnerved by the unknown, we are fortunate to have good heads on our shoulders, a beautiful place to live and the creativity to make the most of what we have.

This weekend has been a perfect example of how you can do what you need to do with little money and extras.  The mache seedlings have been growing for around a month and they will soon be ready to transfer to a cooler area, at least during the day.  Mache is a leafy green sometimes called "Lamb's Lettuce" or "Corn Lettuce".  I have two varieties of seeds, one of which grows during the winter months the other during the spring and summer.

Leafy greens and other "delicate" vegetables are best grown in colder temperatures in a cold frame.  The frame allows the plants to grow outside without being subjected to frost and/or snow.  It also keeps the soil at a reasonable growing temperature throughout the winter.  Some plants like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbages grow well without a cold frame but we will have to wait until next fall and winter season to try those!  We have seven broccoli plants that have been growing in containers on our deck, but we are going to try to transplant them to the cold frame or to another bed (as an experiment) soon.

Yesterday we began our cold frame project by searching the back part of our property for fallen trees.  We were mainly looking for straight poles about 2 inches in diameter and at least 10 feet long.  In addition to collecting wood for this particular project, we cleaned out a bit of the wooded area, found lots of logs that would be perfect for winter fires in the fireplace or over a fire pit in the backyard, and will serve as trellises and garden stakes in the spring.

Poles were selected, de-branched and cut to size with a bow saw.  The frame ended up measuring 10 x 3.5, which hopefully won't be too wide to reach into it.

We laid out the logs and began binding them together with twine.  We tried long nails but our hammering skills weren't really up to par and the twine looked so old school funky that it seemed the easier option.  The 10 ft. poles were supported across with subsequent poles and we left the back two times longer than the front to make it easy to bend over to cultivate the soil and pick plants when it's time.

When the frame was constructed, we spent a total of $11 for some construction plastic and began wrapping the frame and securing it with a staple gun.  After using materials found around the house I could justify spending $11 on the plastic.  Plus, we have lots more for future projects!  We made sure that there were no holes at the "seams" and tried to make it as snug as possible.

The top of the frame is simple and can be opened and closed easily - but will need two people, one on each side.  On the tall side of the frame we reinforced the plastic and stapled it to the top pole.  The other end of the top was secured to another long pole which rests on the frame.  Because of the curve of the wood we used there is a little gap, but we will handle that at another time.  Two forked sticks will be used to keep the top open during the day.

Anyway, all in all it's not the prettiest but should serve a purpose until we can get something a little more modern.  I'm quite proud of my engineering skills and Al's ability to forage the woods for useful materials.