Monday, August 18, 2008

DIY Cold Frame

As the summer growing season ends and colder temperatures approach, you may find the need for a cold frame to extend your growing season. A cold frame will allow you to cultivate plants that may be susceptible to harsher temperatures and keep fresh vegetables on the table throughout the winter months. Being able to cultivate a winter crop of fresh vegetables can help your pantry from being depleted during the winter months.

Most people lack the necessary skills, materials, or funds to build even a moderate size greenhouse. These problems can be solved with a rather simple cold frame that is easy to make and that requires very little maintenance.

The solution is to make a hay bale cold frame.

1.) The first item you will need is some type of old window, shower door, or patio door with the glass still intact. This will be used to make the cover for your cold frame to allow the sunlight to reach your plants.

2.) The second item you will need is an adequate number of bales of hay to use as the base for whatever type of covering you have available for your cold frame. Many times old windows, patio doors, etc. can be found at yard or garage sales for little or nothing. I once obtained two sets of patio doors for free. The only cost was the expense of hauling them off, but to safely do so you will need help for something like patio doors because they are very bulky. The advantage is that you can usually obtain two good glass covers enabling you to make more than one cold frame should you desire. Or you may simply want to keep a spare cover for your cold frame or trade or barter the additional glass door (they normally come in pairs and are fairly easy to remove from the frame) for some other item you may need.

And that’s all you really need to make a simple cold frame. I’m no mechanical engineer, but even I could arrange a few bales of hay in a rectangle and lay an old patio door over them. There are also optional things you can do that are quite simple and will further enhance your cold frame.

These are a few of the optional things you can do:

1.) The inside of the hay bales may be lined with weed paper to retard weed growth and enhance the insulating properties of your cold frame. You can also use black plastic, which is better than clear plastic because it will absorb more heat from the sun to line your cold frame although you will need to puncture a number of holes in it to allow adequate drainage.

2.) Line the bottom of your cold frame with a soaker hose, leaving the connector exposed for easy hook-up of a water line, helping to prevent the loss of valuable warmth that can occur when removing the cover. Simply let it stick out between a couple of the bales or route it underneath.

3.) Use wooden or metal stakes, or any kind of stake for that matter, to hold the bales in place in order to help keep pesky critters out. You may also want to string some type of line or cord across your glass cover for the same reason and secure the line in place with tent stakes.

4.) You may want to add an optional cover of insulation board, corrugated fiberglass or tin to cover the top of the cold frame at night to provide further insulation and to retain more of the warmth in your cold frame. This can also be used in the event of a severe weather storm in which hail could cause possible damage to the cover or to make snow removal easier. It too can be easily secured with cord and tent stakes.

The first additional benefit of this type of cold frame is the additional heat that is derived from the hay bales as they decompose. The second additional benefit is the hay can be used later in your summer garden as a mulch to help with water retention when winter is gone.

Make sure to locate your cold frame where it will receive maximum sunlight. *edit* Don't forget to keep a brick, a 2x4, or something to prop up the glass on really hot days. You will need to have decent ventilation for your cold frame to prevent damage to your plants.

The only tool required is a hammer (or you can use a rock if you’re into bushcraft).

Also, on a side note take some time and check out Be A Survivor . Flea has some good tips for everyone on his site today.

You can also check out a pre-SHTF story that Sam has in progress at DIY- Preparedness . You can even leave a comment or two about his creative efforts.

BTW, if you are into bushcraft check out Faol of the Wood .
He's into the Swedish Firesteels that you can get at Survival Topics .

Please check out the article on Companion Gardening at the Texas Prepper's Network .

Staying above the water line!



Survivalist News said...

I have used old glass shower doors. They are not double paned like sliding glass doors but they work and are considerably cheaper.

Grumpyunk said...

Very important. You have to allow for ventilation on sunny days! You can't just leave cold frames closed as the temps inside will climb tremendously on a sunny day which will kill the plants inside. Even on a day of only 45 degrees it will get hot as h*** inside. As simple as a brick to prop it open is essential during sunny days.

They should be closed and covered at night w/ some kind of insulating material. An old piece of carpeting or some such will do, but you almost have to have something to protect young plants from the cold at night. I've made both mistakes in the past and lost plants. This means you have to be there twice a day, everyday.

If you want to really utilize cold frames, Google up French intensive hot houses. Digging a hole 6-10" deep and put fresh horse manure in it and bury it w/ 2-3 inches of soil inside the cold frame. This generates heat below the plants and allows you to plant even earlier.
Wall-O-Waters are wonderful newer ideas that anyone who is interested in getting plants started early should look into. They work great for tomatoes. They're kinda pricey, 3-4$ each but I've been using mine for 6 years now. So they are worth it.

Oh, look for glass at the local dealer that does window and door replacement. They almost always have a big pile of doors and windows that they've taken out and are sitting out behind the place that they will give you. I got all the doors and windows for both of my chicken houses for the asking.

And don't let your kids play baseball anywhere close to the garden. I can assure you that a ball WILL hit your cold frame.

Also, seeds don't do as well as plants started and transplanted into the frames. Luck!

Staying Alive said...

Hey, I grabbed that Faol of the Wood and put it in my survival links for my morning fix. Thank ya' kindly. You be the man!


riverwalker said...

To: survivalist news

I've used old shower doors also. It usually depends on what I can get for free as to what I use. If it's free, I find a way to use it!


To: grumpunk

Thanks for the reminder! I usually just take a short piece of 2x4 and slide along the edge for ventilation. Proper ventilation is important and I will edit the post to include this. Thanks.


To: Michael

Great you like the link!


Wretha said...

Great info, I was wondering how to stretch my growing season.


Frameless Shower Door said...

Frameless Shower door enclosures are the latest bathroom remodeling trend. check it out!

Aluminium sliding glass doors repairs Western suburbs Melbourne said...

thanks for sharing the information.....

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