How to Laugh at Winter, Build a Cheap Mini Greenhouse and More

Winter’s death rat­tle. Snow­fall: 0 inches. HA!

The green­house look­ing great! All the flow­ers and herbs have sprouted and are grow­ing like crazy. Once we started plant­ing, how­ever, we real­ized pretty quickly that, as cute as it is, our lit­tle 8′ by 16′ green­house is just not going to be big enough to hold all our new seedlings, espe­cially once things really get going in April and May. So, today Mom and I built three 4′ by 4′ cold frames. Cold frames are like lit­tle green­houses, built low to the ground, that can be used in a vari­ety of ways. They can grown in directly (while pro­tect­ing the lit­tle seedlings from the cold), they can be used as an over­flow space to store trays we can’t fit into the green­house, and they can also be used as a place to “harden off” young plants out­side before putting them into the gar­den — expos­ing young plants to the cold before putting them through the shock of trans­plant­ing. Our cold frames are each roughly 4′ x 4′, and can fit 8 stan­dard size plant­ing trays.

My dad cut all the ply­wood for us. As you can see here, a cold frame base can all be cut from one piece of plywood:

The two top pieces become the sides, and the bot­tom pieces become the front and back. Here’s some pic­tures of our assem­bled bases out­side the green­house.  As you can see, the boxes are slightly angled for­ward, towards the sun. Both the green­house and the cold frames face South.

My dad cut all the ply­wood for us and also built the frames for the tops. To fin­ish the tops we sim­ply stretched heavy duty plas­tic across the frames and sta­pled it to the wood.

That thin piece of wood across the bot­tom is designed to be sta­pled on top of the plas­tic and hold the whole thing together as tightly as pos­si­ble. Unfor­tu­nately, we didn’t have long enough sta­ples, so I’m plan­ning on fin­ish­ing up the plas­tic and putting hinges on tomor­row morn­ing. I’ll post more pic­tures of the com­pleted cold frames then.
In other news, the snow has finally melted enough that we can see what our future veg­etable field will look like. I men­tioned before that I was wor­ried because I had been hear­ing more and more about how wet the field we were plan­ning on using could get in the Spring. A visit to the NRCS (National Resources Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice) field office in West­ford at the begin­ning of March con­firmed this fact (they have pretty detailed infor­ma­tion on soil types and wet­land areas through­out Mass­a­chu­setts). Well every­one was right, the field is really wet. Right now we’re deal­ing with about this much vis­i­ble water:
Obvi­ously, this puts a lit­tle snag in our plans to build a per­fect 100′ x 200′ veg­etable field (you may remem­ber this pic­ture from an ear­lier post:)
While it’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing that there’s a sea­sonal stream right through the mid­dle of our per­fectly rec­tan­gu­lar 1/2 acre, this doesn’t mean we can’t grow at all. Our new plan is to put in two veg­etable beds, one on each side of the wet area. We mea­sured it out this last week, and we should be able to squeeze a 80′ x 90′ rec­tan­gle on the side clos­est to the house, and a 100′ x 50′ rec­tan­gle on the far side. We’re also plan­ning on putting in a bridge across the stream at some point so that we can get machin­ery across (most impor­tantly for till­ing). This has been my first les­son in being flex­i­ble. I’m sure it won’t be my last.

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