Mar 25, 2010
Experimenting......With A Microclimate.
I recently discovered that I am the kind of girl that owns cold frames. How do you know if you are that kind of girl? Well if you live in Zone 5 ,which means your last frost date is in late April, if you have an overwhelming need to plant your garden in March, if you are impatient, if you happen to have some good friends who happen to have old windows and they happen love to share with you, if you have brown eyes, and if you adore fresh lettuce all year round then, congratulations, you are a cold frame kind of girl(or boy). A lot of things had to all come together for me to figure out that this was the kind of girl I was :) But we can discuss fate another time :)
What is a cold frame? It is nothing more than 4 walls to trap heat and shelter plants with a transparent lid that admits light. It does not need a bottom. I just set mine in the dirt and then shoveled some dirt around the sides just to make sure none of that evil, cold Massachusetts air could get in and kill my plants. I am guessing if you live in Arizona you do not need a cold frame but you can still keep reading...just for fun.
SO, just in case you have a suspicion that you are a cold frame kind of girl (or boy). I will tell you two things I learned in my researching about cold frames.
#1. Cold Frames like to face South...now don't get cocky, and think this is easy, it really is not as easy as it sounds. I have asked numerous people which side of my house they think faces south and I have received way too many answers...all different answers. (How many of Jennifer's friends does it take to figure out which way is South? :) I finally just decided all by myself after watching the sun come up and set which side I thought was south and I feel great about my decision :) Nothing is easy with me.....but it is fun :)
#2. The key to using a cold frame successfully is paying attention to temperature. The temperature inside the cold frame should stay below 75 degrees for summer plants and below 60 for spring and fall plants. You keep the temperature in the box cool by lifting the lid. When it is above 40 degrees outside you should open your lid 6 inches. When your temperatures are above 50 degrees outside you should remove your lid. But make sure you put the lid back on in the late afternoon to trap the heat inside for a cool night. Are you bored yet?
My first step was procuring the windows from my dear friends this was marvelously easy...they simply brought them to me. You should check in your yellow pages and see if you have the kind of friends in your area that deliver old windows to your house :)
The next step was "googling"...luckily I have some mad "googling" skills so this part was easy :) I googled cold frames and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy the concept of a cold frame was. You can make your cold frame as fancy or as plain as you want. So, yes, you do need to know yourself before you make your cold frame:) You can use old windows, old sliding glass doors, or even just some clear plastic for your top. Your sides can be hay bales, cement blocks, or wood. It only needs to be a foot or two high. If you want to be fancy you need hinges to attach the old window to the wood otherwise just lay your windows on top of whatever sides you chose. It is ideal if the back of the cold frame is higher than the front of the cold frame so the rain and snow can slide right off. Oh, and it is handy if you have a husband around who loves to do whatever you tell him. Mine loves these kinds of projects since it presents a perfect situation for him to justify swearing at inantimate objects that most definitely deserve it :)
I really wanted to build the cold frames myself. But the aforementioned husband really does not like me within two miles of his tools so I decided to oblige him this time. Besides I wanted him to use the money in his bank account to procure the supplies thus insuring that I did not have to use the money in my account :)
I confess I am a little afraid of my four new cold frames because I have never tried this before. I have a very few facts and the rest will just be trial and error. Trial and error are not as fun for me as instant perfection but I can handle failure, right?
I had 26 little peat pots sitting in the garage so I filled them with dirt and Natalie and I planted some scallion seeds yesterday. We put the little pots in the cold frame and they spent their first night out there last night. I did not check on them in the night. I did not read them a bedtime story. I did not let them sleep in my bed. So I think we are off to a great start.
I am going to get some paper cups today and another bad of potting soil and start my peas, lettuce, tomatoes spinach, and flowers. You can extend your growing season by quite a bit by using cold frames. So don't be jealous when I am eating lettuce from my New England garden in November :)