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Common household remedies request

I'm told that up here the time to plant in cold frames is the equinox, which is a little less than two weeks away.

So what's the absolute cheapest and laziest way to make a cold frame?

I don't have any woodworking tools (like a saw) and don't want to buy them right now. But I've got a ton of old windows and lots of scraps of this and that, like insulation board and dry wall and scraps of wood and planks and the odd piece of furniture I haven't chopped up yet for firewood (kidding!) Better for me this year to get something going and do something fancier if it all works out.

I do have an excellent sunny spot with room for several cold frames; I was thinking greens, and my root vegetables like carrots and radishes. But one must transplant the seedlings out of the cold frame, and I've heard that peat isn't really degradable (eggshells being proposed as an alternative). So what's the technique for seedlings?

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caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

you can build cold frames without using any tools at all. Use the bales as the frame and place the windows atop the bales. To open it up during the day, which you must do to keep the plants from burning up, use a brick or a piece of 2x4 or whatever you have on hand to prop open one end of the window.

Here are directions with pics.

Submitted by lambert on

I do, however, have pink foam insulation that would be thick enough for the walls. That would be easy to nail together and hey! It would insulate!

Then put window frames on top.

Maybe I could seal it by piling up leaves round the botton?

Submitted by Lex on

Really anything will work. The pink foam insulation boards will work quite well so long as you can fasten them securely enough at the corners. Which you might be able to do by just poking small holes through the board and running a good twine through them to stitch/lash the insulation boards together. (I'm thinking of fairly thick pink board, if it's 1/2", i'd probably double them.)

They have the advantage of being able to cut the sides that the window lays on at an angle for better sun catching. You could also sink them into the soil some number of inches for better heat retention inside the cold frame. Leaf banking would help too.

Submitted by lambert on

which is why I thought of the mulch.

I like the idea of stitching them together with twine. I have twine. Yes, it's thick board.

But wouldn't the vertical edges need to be sealed in some way? Caulk seems wrong. Maybe foam?

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

I don't know that you need to worry about sealing the edges. Just be sure to fasten the pieces of pink board tightly together with the twine. Then bank the cold frame all around with the bags of leaves.

If you want to seal them, duct tape seems like a good option.

Submitted by Lex on

Lay the windows or some plastic sheeting over the ground from now until when you want to build the frame, it'll thaw. There's a good chance that it's already thawed after you get through the first few inches. Burying it at least a few inches is probably the only way you'll have a very stable structure of pink board and twine.

The banking will take care of tiny little gaps. If you really wanted to go all out, the rolls of reusable window rope "caulk" could be used to seal the board corners. You may also be able to glue them and twine them...just test the glue on a scrap piece to make sure it doesn't melt it. But if you have good straight cuts, i'd think the twine done carefully will seal them pretty well.

I can't draw here, but i'm envisioning the two board edges meeting like __| where A is the vertical in this diagram and B is the horizontal. (A would be the side and B would be the front/back in real life) three or so carefully punched holes just bigger than your twine on A, as close to where the inside edge of B meets A, and a corresponding number of holes in B as close to the edge of the board as you can make them without losing structural stability so the twine breaks through the board.

You may even be able to take a small washer and knot the twine so it won't pull through the washer, start it and basically sew the boards together from one piece of twine. If that's possible and you can find a way to secure the end, you're likely to get the most, and even, tension along the joint.

Submitted by lambert on

... and I've what looks like two or three inch slabs. I could do a six foot by three foot cold frame, which is pretty damn big, I think. I'm not going to worry too much about the fastening; I'm sure something will work, and the washers are a good suggestion.

What's the process for getting the seedlings in? If I set the thing up soon, will the sun thaw the soil?

And presumably I'm not planting seedlings in the soil since I have to transplant easily. But I hear peat pots aren't biodegradable and also wick moisture. I'm intrigued by the idea of eggshells (!!) but a six-foot by three-foot cold frame... That's a lot of eggshells.

Submitted by Lex on

Yes, if you set it up soon the sun will warm/thaw the soil very quickly. And as i said, if you lay the windows over the spot before the build you'll thaw out the soil too.

You may want to seed directly for some things. It's likely that you can get an early crop of greens out of the cold frame or start cold crops (broccoli, beets, etc) in it and then remove the windows and/or frame to finish them when the weather warms.

If you've got a flat for seeding, you can just set that in the frame and transplant from it. An independent garden center is likely to be willing to sell you used flats for almost nothing; at least the one i worked at, that kind of stuff piled up far faster than it could be used by the operation.

The peat or cow pots will hold their structure plenty long enough to transplant out of the cold frame, especially if you don't completely bury them or pack the soil very tightly around them. Terracotta pots will wick moisture as well and can be reused many times. Dixie cups would probably work as well. Hell, if you're careful and let the plants establish in there, you can just use a trowel and transplant the soil/root mass to a new spot.

Don't forget to design it so that you can prop the windows up to let air in and out. It's gonna get hot in there and quick.

We've gotten a warm spell, and it looks like i'll be able to skin my 4x8' cold frames this weekend and probably plant cold crops sooner rather than later. Worst that can happen by being a little soon is having to start over. The best is a real early jump.

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