Thursday, January 14, 2010

Keeping Busy in the Winter

What is that object sitting in the midst of the snow in garden bed #4?
Today is January 14th. Snow covers the garden. After all, this is Syracuse. I can't prepare the soil, plant vegetables, fertilize plants, or harvest produce.
The seed catalogs have been here for over a month and the seed orders have already been placed and some have arrived.
The plan for this year's garden is made. What will be grown and where things will be planted has been decided.
Is it time to relax and read? Some.
But when it is impossible to work in the garden it may be time to work in the cellar. The object is my first attempt at a cold frame. I just put it out in the snow today because we are supposed to have sunny weather and temperatures above freezing for the next four or five days. My hope is that this weather will warm up the soil inside the cold frame so that soon after the beginning of February I can plant the little spinach and corn mache seedlings that are growing in the cellar. The magic date is supposed to be around February 8th when the daylight will have increased to ten hours.
Here is the cold frame up close.
Except for the screws that hold it together, the insulation hidden inside and the insulation strip that lies under the edge of the glass, it is made from materials that I (or my son, Greg) collected or that have been in the cellar for some time. When I see large storm door windows by the side of the road I grab them. This one is somewhat small, about 26" by 29". The frame is made from 3/4" pine some of which was a neighbor's shelving unit that found itself at the curb. The sides are screwed into halves of pieces of 2" by 4" at the corners. I cut up pieces of our old cedar fence about 1 1/2" wide and nailed them to the bottom of the sides so that the initial rot over time will be of the replaceable cedar pieces and not the pine sides and to hold the insulation. I cut one inch foam insulation and added it to each side covered with black plastic stapled to hold the insulation in place and absorb more sunlight. Right now the cold frame sits on a piece of black plastic that hopefully will absorb heat from the sun and melt the thin layer of snow under the cold frame and warm the soil that is below that. I was planning to remove the black plastic but I could just make slits and plant through it. Since the glass sits on 3/4" pieces of wood screwed about half an inch below the top of the cold frame I placed a metal corner brace under the glass when I put the glass in so that I have a way to lift the glass when I need to get inside to plant, water, etc. The string was added as a back-up means of lifting the glass when I forget to put the corner brace back in place.
The last step will be to cut a piece of foam insulation the size of the glass to bungee cord on top of the glass when it is supposed to get really cold. I may also add a piece of row cover over the plants inside to provide additional protection. I have to purchase a maximum-minimum thermometer to put inside in order to see what the range of temperature is.

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