Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cold Framing

    A cold frame is a garden device built low to the ground with a transparent roof used to protect tender seedlings and plants from cold weather.  It is a miniature greenhouse. 

     For the Florida resident (until the earth shifts!) a cold frame is a cheap, easy, temporary tool in the garden, usually made of plastic and PVC piping or any upright stake.
     For the gardener who starts out early or has more than a few cold snaps, the next step up in the cold frame/ instant greenhouse device is the PVC pipe and plastic greenhouse.  Visqueen is the common name of the 4 mil thick plastic used to make this type cold frame.  You need PVC pipe 1 to 2 inch diameter and one and a half times the width of the garden spot you want to cover, two upright posts, 2" x 2" or 2" by 4" pieces about a foot long, longer if you have very sandy soil or very windy nights, and two metal brackets (the metal wall mount brackets plumbers use to keep the pipes from vibrating fit the pipe and allow you to screw to the posts).

    This blog has a very nice step by step and does not include a picture of me screwing bracket to my thumb!

     For the favored plant in the garden that is well established, there are umbrella greenhouses and bell jars to protect them.  You can also use a tomato cage as the upright support and a wrap of Visqueen as the protecting sheet.  With all these methods, the greenhouse effect is in effect.  You must tend to temperature and moisture under the cover.  If it gets too warm in the afternoon, you will cook your plants alive!
 Protect your plants from damaging frost 

     You could even call the last minute blanket toss a cold frame.  As I travel to work I see a lot of last minute thinkers trying to preserve their tender landscape plants from a sudden frost warning.
     I have seen sheets with every super hero ever featured in a comic, sci-fi characters, and some very bold prints!  It doesn't matter what the color, it does the job, but because these covers are not transparent and some blankets are too insulating, I have also seen more damage done with the blanket toss than the frost because the plants can't breathe and need light.  If you can't get to your local garden center, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, and Target carry breathable, lightweight reusable covers.  I also found this pic from Bed, Bath and Beyond!


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