Why Settle for a Cold Frame?

-Submitted by Anonymous:

Cold frame“Our greenhouse came about because we wanted a better cold frame to harden off plants started in our basement. Well it soon became a true greenhouse, even able to contend with a portion of our cold Wisconsin winters. Shane’s book has proved invaluable in answering all of the questions, which arise when undertaking such a project.

The construction took most of the previous summer. Attached to the back of our garage, standing structurally free, it measures five foot by ten foot. All of the construction was done with pressure treated wood, we would have preferred cedar, however it cost three times as much in this part of the country. Four 6” x 6” post form the corners. The post are sunk four feet and set in concrete. 4’ x 6” timbers form sole plates, which are mortised and tenoned to the 6” x 6”s. The one quarter inch tempered glass was salvaged and set in 2” x 2” pieces of wood. The horizontal space between panes was caulked, instead of using additional wood. Three thirty gallon water barrels, painted half black and half white, support the benches and provide 3 to 10 degrees of temperature buffering depending on how cold and or sunny it was the previous day. The floor was insulated with that corrugated plastic covered with pea gravel with stone pavers set where you walk. Two small circulation fans, run by timer, a 120-volt heater and a squirrel cage exhaust fan, controlled by thermostat, regulate temperatures. One section (seven panes of glass) at the peak is hinged and ready for the hydraulic opener.

This February we started up and brought out various flowering annuals and later some tomatoes. Hanging baskets hung from a steel cable at the peak really took off and look terrific. We are very pleased with what spring has brought us and excited about experimenting through the summer and fall. In the end of April, it turned extremely cold and we had to run the heater almost non-stop. At the first of May, it suddenly turned 90 degrees for three straight days…it was over 100 degrees in the greenhouse. With lots of water, everything survived! At the middle of May, we couldn’t wait any longer, and we planted some of the annuals outside. Within a couple of days, we had a light frost and lost all of the tomatoes and some of the annuals. It was a sad day. Since then, however, the weather has changed dramatically and everything is looking outstanding, now! This growing season has been a wonderful challenge and a great learning experience.

Thanks to Shane for responding to my questions on the message board and for such a great book with all the helpful information and ideas. We love the book and read it often. It has encouraged us to try to grow tomatoes into the late fall and we are even thinking about growing some orchids. Your book has given us the courage to experiment and we appreciate your experience and knowledge.”

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