Saturday, March 6, 2010

My new cold frame

The ground is still frozen solid and the snow is just now starting to melt away. Despite the frozen breaths, I smelled spring in the air as I worked outside this morning. I decided this was as good a time as any to bring my new cold frame out of the basement. I had been planning on painting it white on the inside and dark on the outside, to maximize reflection and absorption respectively. Then I got lazy and also a bit skittish about the safety of the paints so close to edibles. Finally, I'm trying to keep the cost of the project under 10 bucks, and I didn't have any deck or exterior paint lying around. Is this all to justify my lazy reluctance to paint? Perhaps. But this whole thing is built from scrap, except for the irregularly-sized plexiglass that I picked up cheap at Menard's. The frame is rickety enough to not last more than a few seasons. So, if this works out, I will likely build a more long-lasting structure with real woodworking effort. That then may justify the preservative power of paint and I would be willing to spend more time finding soil safe formulas. Then again, I may just move to straw bale or cinder block framing. We'll see.

The snow melt pattern in my garden demonstrates the microclimates in a narrow lot such as mine:

I located the cold frame site in the warmest area of my plot, keeping a sharp eye for the past few weeks on where the snow first began to disappear. The ground is still icy...I'm a hoping a week under the cold frame will warm things up a bit. I'll add in some compost once things get "workable" and then put in some spring seeds. This is more experimental than anything else this year, so I'm going to try a few of each vegetable, and see which one takes. The other thought would be to grow things in pots under the cold frame, treating it as a mini-green house rather than an in-ground season extender. This will be my plan B if my initial seed germination fails.

Had I but world enough and time, I would have built a much more aesthetically pleasing frame. I may be particularly vulnerable to the homeliness of my garden this weekend, since I am about to set off for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. All of the gorgeous plants, containers and photographs are inevitably going to make me regret -- just a wee bit -- the DIY look of my home landscape. I wish all of my containers were arts-and-crafts-style cement urns -- the kind that grace the bungalows of Oak Park. Unfortunately, scavenged laundry tubs and buckets work just as well and cost nothing. I know my husband wishes that I would at least get rid of the buckets, but even he concedes that our house and garden is functional, and not meant to be a showpiece. We certainly aren't decreasing property prices in the neighborhood with our choices: at least our plants are REAL! Anyway, I will report back on the progress of the cold-frame and all of the luscious displays at the garden show. I will approach the show as I do a fine patisserie...I admire the gorgeous pastries for what they are: professionally-designed commercial products. But I go home to my free-form tarts and muffins with lopsided tops and eat happily, satisfying my own tastes.

1 comment:

  1. Hurrah for free-form tarts! I'm in the same situation, Abbie, and if I were you, I'd be thrilled at my DIY accomplishments, esp. the new cold frame. I love it, personally, and it's so great that you built it of reused and scavenged materials. Way to go!