I Built a Cold Frame Garden Box for Hardening the Summer Garden Seedlings

in hive-129017 •  12 days ago  (edited)

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Another week until the ground is ready for the vegetables to be transplanted into the garden, by then the threat of frost will be gone. A couple months earlier I had started tomato and other seeds indoors - before transplanting outside I'll have to get the indoor plants accustomed to the wind and stronger sunlight, I have to harden them. To help with the hardening process they'll need to be protected from the wind and direct sunlight - with 2x4s, screws, nails, and a roll of plastic sheeting, I built a Cold Frame garden box for the seedlings. Cold Frame garden boxes are like mini greenhouses with the intent to extend season by adding a month or so at the end and the beginning of the grow season.

Old Structure to be Refurbished

I stripped down most of the old structure that I had put together as a temporary tool shed when I was building the house - 8ft wide x 3ft deep. It was a little close to the green cistern lid, so I moved it down the hill a few feet, eventually removed the 2x4 decking.

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I cut the front/south facing corner 2x4s shorter so the roof of the structure will have a slight pitch down in the front. I added the 8ft 2x4s to the front top and the back top, then the side 2x4s to define the roof and stiffen the structure. I also added 2x4s to the bottom of the front and sides to build the lower walls of the garden box.

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Added more lower side, front, and back 2x4s for the garden box walls.

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I added a roof cross support in the middle, and more 2x4s to level the rest of the roof with the cross support.

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Field rocks to help keep the structure in place.

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The garden box and roof structure is complete, ready for sheeting. I'll most likely pile dirt and rocks at the front and back of the box, to fill in the gap from the down hill. I placed the 3ft long 2x4 decking pieces into the box without attaching them, they're resting on inside length wise 2x4s.

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Garden Box Sheeting

I used a white plastic sheeting that I had a roll of for the sides and front - I thought it would let a little more light through, but maybe only 50% or so, but fine for my purpose. I used a clear poly sheeting for the roof and back to let full sun in the top, much like a classic cold frame garden box.

Sheeting the Sides

I used a few staples to tack some of the plastic in place, but mostly the plastic sheeting is firmly held in place by the the added 2x4 at the top and bottom that the plastic runs under. First I would attach at the top, then I would pull it down tightly before adding the bottom 2x4.

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I trimmed off the excess plastic sheeting from the top, sides, and bottom, leaving enough on the sides to pull around the 2x4 corner to staple on the inside. I might add vertical 2x4s on the sides to finish it off and hold it a little tighter, but it's very solid as it is.

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Sheeting the Front

You can see how I roll out the plastic sheeting to cut it to the correct width.

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Very similar to the sides, I started with the top 2x4, then the bottom.

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I trimmed off the excess plastic, pulled the sides around the corners to stapled them.

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Sheeting the Top and Back

For the top and back of the garden box I used 1 sheet of clear poly plastic.

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I started with the front, rolled and stapled the edge of the plastic sheet with the 2x4, then attached it to the front top 2x4 of the structure to firmly hold the plastic sheet in place, and low enough so that rain water would easily run off the roof. The sheet was pulled over the top and the back, the top was pulled tight and the top back 2x4 attached to firmly hold it in place.

For now I'm just letting the back plastic drape down to the ground where it is weighted with a few 2x4s.

Seedlings Into the Cold Frame Garden Box

Mostly tomato seedlings - cherry, sweetie, and Roma varieties, pumpkin, beans, sunflowers, and carrot seedlings hardening for now. Many of the veggies I'll be directly seeding to the garden this week.

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Are you having a garden this year?

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That looks like a good sturdy cold frame!
It sounds like your garden season is about the same as mine. I generally don't put things in the garden until the end of May-first week of June because of possible frost danger.

  ·  11 days ago (edited)

When I was building the house I purposely ordered extra 2x4s so I'd have an extra pile of them to play with :) It sounds like a very similar season length in the u.p., a greenhouse and hoop rows are definitely on my list to extend the season a little, there's a lot of wind here too.

OK - I'm inspired! I need to build the shade-house version of this for hot tropical climate in Thailand, but fundamentally the same.

Simple, clear and soooo necessary to get those babies off to a string start, especially in a short growing season.

Awesome :) I've had the plants out there for 2 days and nights, they're doing well, enjoying the warmth and more light, they'll be climatized quickly. Most of the plants we had on the south side of the house window sill, but the sun is so high in the sky already that it was barely coming in the windows, it's nice to have them out of the house too. The lettuce in the climate here likes partial shade, i have some shade netting that I'll be covering their garden row box with for shading. The tomato, pepper, and other fruiting plants we have to start a few months before the short season for a good harvest. I'm looking forward to when the gardens fill in, they always start out the season looking so sparse :)

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