Building A Cold Frame The Hard Way

I finally did it!  It’s a little late, but I finally put together a cold frame!

I wish I had started it a month or two ago so that I could have started some seeds in it earlier, but at least it’s done.  It’s one less thing I’ll have to do in the fall, and I’ll be grateful for it then, I’m sure.

Now, I can skate by with a lot of things, but carpentry isn’t one of them.  Spacial relations and I are not close friends.  Power tools and I are not well acquainted.  I haven’t made anything with wood and screws and brackets, well, probably not since my 8th grade woodshop class, so I’m pretty darn pleased with the results:

I found some old windows in our basement and got the okay from our landlord to use them.  I gave the measurements to a nearby hardware store and asked them to cut pieces of wood (not pressure treated, please  – it’s for growing food!).

It’s pretty solid and I’m happy with it, but it was a little more challenging than I expected.

My first mistake was not brushing up on geometry.

When I gave the measurements to the guy at the hardware store (27″ for the side pieces, please) he told me “when I cut the diagonal, they will be longer.”

<silence while I try to wrap  my head around this>

“Longer than 27 inches?” I asked.

“Yes, miss.”

What??  But how?

There was a little bit of a language barrier going on and that coupled with the 25 years since my last geometry class, well…it made for  a pretty funny conversation…him repeatedly telling me it will become longer than 27 inches when cut on a diagonal and me repeatedly saying in response “how can it become longer than it actually is?”   (Not like it’s going to GROW, right?)  “If the rectangle is 27″ long and you cut it on a diagonal, how can it possibly become longer than 27″  The wood is only 27″ wide!”

I picked up the cut wood, took it home, and lo and behold – it was longer than 27 inches on the diagonal.  Holy cow.  He was right!  How could this be?

A friend later reminded me that the hypotenuse is the longest side of a right triangle.  (huh.  And I got an A in geometry in 8th grade…guess it hasn’t exactly stuck with me.)

Mistake number two was not taking into consideration the extra inch or so (width of the wood planks) that I’d get when I joined two pieces together.  Huh.   When I started putting the frame together and set the window on top…the frame was too big.

This led to me purchasing my very first saw and removing a couple of inches on each diagonal plank so that the window actually fit the box when it was assembled and there weren’t 3 extra inches of wood sticking out the bottom end.

My screws are slightly crooked and it took me a heck of a lot longer than it probably should have, but I now have a solid cold frame!   It was easy on paper, but putting it together was more challenging than I’d imagined.  (Okay – two pieces of wood that must be joined together with screws…how do I hold one board steady while attaching board #2?)  Sigh.

As you can see, I was really starting with the VERY basics.  Someone might as well have asked me to change their carburetor.

Somehow I managed to lodge that first piece against the porch using some bricks and a barrel and get the second one attached.  From there it was a little easier.

Here’s the progress, step by slow step:

Success!  The first two pieces joined together.

These screws actually went in straight. 😉

Board #3 gets attached:

I added these braces or brackets or whatever they are called hoping that they would make the frame sturdier overall and help to stop the wood from warping over time:

The 4th and final board attached!

Next came the hinges. It was a little tricky because the side of the window frame wasn’t totally solid on one half, where the chain / sash is. Of course I neglected to notice that or think of it before making the frame. Had I noticed, I could have turned the window so that the sides with the chain / sash would have actually been the sides of the cold frame, giving me a solid top and bottom to drill the hinges into.

Somehow I made it work. I’d consider buying an extra set of hinges and attaching them just because it can’t hurt, but it’s working for now:

Overall, not so bad!

I had considered adding some sort of handle (and still may) to make it easier to open the frame. In the meantime, the window chain actually makes it easy to grab and lift up the frame:

Not sure that it will continue to live here in this spot, but it fits well enough for the time being, and it’s certainly easy to move.

Woo hoo!

Half Wine Barrels on Wheels

Our landlord makes wine.

Underneath the garage there is a basement full of old barrels and wine-making equipment that hasn’t been used in a while.  Last he landlord asked if I’d like to have one of the barrels for planting.  Um…YES, please!  He also offered to cut it in half for me.  Perfect!

He finally dropped off two half-barrels a few weeks ago – great timing!

Thanks to the folks at Talking-Dog I found a great way to attach casters to the bottom of the barrels so that I can play around with where to put them and move them more easily if necessary.

One of the barrel bottoms was a bit warped, so the pieces of wood didn’t fit very well and it was king of hit or miss with the 3″ screws I was using, but eventually I managed to secure the wood pieces.

Not bad, huh?  I am hoping that we can score some more.  They would save me a ton of money on large planters, plus I really love the way they look – and since they were used for wine, they are food safe!

I’ve had some concerns about planting veggies in the ground for several reasons.  First of all there are so many trees and roots it is hard to dig a decent sized space.  Once all the trees fill in and the figs branch out, there isn’t quite enough sun for a vegetable patch.  Most importantly, I’ve never had the soil tested and have found an alarming number of batteries in the ground wherever I have dug in.

(The battery mystery has at last been solved, by they way! Charlie finally figured it out – the previous tenants must have had lots of battery-operated footlights…and apparently they never actually properly disposed of any of the batteries, preferring to, you know, just LEAVE them in the GROUND. ???)

So, I would much prefer planting veggies and herbs in containers where I can control what the growing medium is.

I still need to drill some drainage holes in the bottoms before I can fill them.  I’ m hoping I can pick up a drill bit piece that will make a holes larger than 1/4 inch – ha.

I may line the barrels with a bit of landscape cloth too, still not sure.  I am pretty sure I will fill the bottom 1/3 with styrofoam peanuts or something similar to help lighten the load and cut back on the amount of soil I need use and buy.

The hardest part is narrowing down what to put in there!

I think an herb barrel would be really nice…close to the kitchen, and plenty of room for everyone’s roots.

Sage, thyme, rosemary, chives, oregano, hopefully some basil…I think I should be able to fit them all in there…the barrels are actually pretty big.

I’d love to fill one with potatoes, or lettuces and peppers…and I would love to have some filled with flowers…maybe a small shrub for the front of the house.  (I splurged on a self-watering grow box for tomatoes…that will be another post soon!)

What I would really love is to grow a peony or a rose (shrub or tea or climbing)…if I could find one that can handle living in a large container, I’d be able to make sure it got a spot in the sun.

CLEARLY, I’m going to need more barrels.  Good thing my husband shoveled all that snow all winter long for the landlord!  🙂