We get some weird weather here in Kansas, and right now it’s unpredictable as usual. For the last few weeks we’ve all been dealing with temperature swings from 20 to 70 degrees and back again. I’ve been able to do a lot of work outside, but chances are we’ll get snow at least one more time this year. As a gardener, what do you do with that? It feels like time to plant, but it’s (sometimes) too cold to leave plants unprotected.
One thing you can do is use a cold frame, and this year I decided to give it a serious try. If you’re not familiar with the concept, a cold frame is like a very small (and usually cheap!) greenhouse. It’s a simple structure that you set out in the garden on top of the soil. That small section of your garden then gets some protection from wind and cold, so you can plant outdoors earlier.
You can build a cold frame from all kinds of different materials, really just depending on what you have handy. So here’s the first one I put together. I wrote a little about this in an earlier blog post, but to recap: The box is part of an old light fixture that I got at a Habitat Restore. I put it on bricks to keep it off the ground, and covered it with a shower curtain.
I’m new to cold frames, and I’m sure I have made, and will continue to make, some mistakes, but so far it’s looking good. I planted spinach and kale in January, and the seedlings have sprouted. Here’s a closer look at some of the spinach. The kale is growing too, but it’s even smaller, so doesn’t photograph well yet.
One nice thing is that it’s very easy to remove the cover, so on a few nice days, I’ve just pulled the cover off. (And this also seems like a good time to water, if the soil is too dry.) Most of the time I leave it on though, because it’s still getting very cold at night, and sometimes during the day too. Freezing rain in the forecast? Plastic cover back on!
I wanted a little more space to plant in, so a couple of weeks ago, we put in a second cold frame, and planted it with radish seeds. The seeds haven’t sprouted yet, but here’s what the structure looks like. The box part is some old shelving held together with brackets, with a window on top. I’m not sure yet how well this structure will deal with rain and snow, so some adjustments may be necessary. Stay tuned.