Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Has (Almost) Sprung!

Well, we have been getting ready for Spring this week on the homestead. We have ordered our seeds, measured the garden, and constructed our cold frame. Last year when we started our seeds, we started them in the house. This worked out ok, however they didn't receive enough sunlight, and they were in constant danger of being eaten by Bob (the cat). So this year we realized we needed to do something different, and decided to build a cold frame.

                                                  Here is a picture of the finished product:

The frame will work like a miniature green house, the sun shines through the plastic and heats everything up and is trapped. Plants thrive in a warm, bright place so it will be perfect for starting them when it still is too early to put them in the ground. A huge benefit to having a cold frame in a colder climate like we live in is that it will extend our growing period. It is hard to judge when the last frost will be here in Michigan, so we will be able to start our plants early without having to worry about losing them to frost.

We took a trip to our nearest Menard's to purchase supplies. After a lot of research we found that Menard's was the most cost efficient place to get twin-wall polycarbonate (a.k.a.: greenhouse plastic). We considered using old windows as a substitute for the Polycarbonate, however since we built it onto the side of the house, we risk losing them to the icicles in the winter. If you were to build one independent from your house however, using old windows is a popular choice, and a great way to recycle.

Our materials included:
And a few miscellaneous hardware items. (Nuts, bolts, screws, etc.)

We (and when I say we, I mean Cody) built the frame on the side of the house as we are going to use it as a passive solar air exchanger in the winter, so we really only built 3 sides. We did have to remove the siding from that part of the house, but we are going to reuse that siding to cover the area that we added the pantry to.

                                          Cody pulling off the siding where the frame will be:

Cody didn't have any sort of blueprint for the frame, so he just built it to fit our needs. It only took about 2 days, and the whole project cost us about $200. First he built the frame and added the plywood to seal the ends. Then Erin painted the frames to match the house. Once the paint was dry Cody insulated the ends and stapled foil insulation around the entire inside. Next he added the Polycarbonate sheets to the top, attaching them with the hinges so we can easily access the inside. Lifting the sheets will also work as ventilation for the plants later in the spring when it gets warm enough. It provides us with approximately 48 square feet of growing space. We built it on the South side of the house for maximum sun exposure.

                                                       Another view of the finished frame:

Now that we got this project done we are really looking forward to starting out plants! Since our season will be extended and it will protect them from frost we will be able to start them soon!

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