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This Weather

A corner of our garden, recently fitted with bamboo teepees for our pole beans.

A corner of our garden, recently fitted with bamboo teepees for our pole beans.

I blame the weather for our lack of blog updates. April (and May so far) have been outrageously gorgeous. This past week has been full-on summertime gorgeous. Needless to say, the plants, the animals, and ourselves are LOVING it, and spending time on a computer has dropped to the bottom of our current priority list.

This weather is pretty much exactly opposite of what last year was. Last year was rain, rain, rain, cool temperatures, rain, which brought slugs, slugs, slugs. This year we’ve got sun, sun, sun, crazy warm temperatures, and no slugs. It’s pretty awesome. It means we’re outside watering every day (not something we expected to be spending our time doing so early in the season). It also means that plants are flowering way earlier than normal and that our new arugula is already bolting(!?). Crazy. But we’re not complaining. We’re tank-topping, jean-shorting, and flip-flopping this weather up!

Here’s a quick list of what we’ve been up to for the last few weeks:

  • transplanted hundreds of seedlings into the garden beds, including mixed salad greens, kale, chard, collards, broccoli, brussel sprouts, flowers, peas, beans, potatoes, onions, scallions, carrots, beets, and herbs;
  • hosted our first market booth of the season at the Haney Farmers Earth Day Market;
  • had two days of pre-school groups come tour the farm (so fun!);
  • attended more permaculture classes;
  • wrote a Farm for Life article for the upcoming issue of Footprint Press;
  • and drank lovely glasses of wine with lovely people around lovely farm bonfires;

We’ll try to be better at blogging about more of these things as they happen. We hope everyone is enjoying this spectacular weather. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with information about the two farmers markets we’re planning on being at this year as well as a list of what you can expect to find at our booth this weekend.


How I built our DIY cold frames

The south-facing side of the garage presented a great opportunity to take advantage of one of the warmest and most protected spots on the property. It was also a totally unused space that was just begging for attention :) It provided us with approximately 20' length x 4' depth of cold frame growing space.

The south-facing side of the garage presented a great opportunity to take advantage of one of the warmest and most protected spots on the property. It was also a totally unused space that was just begging for attention :) It provided us with approximately 20′ length x 4′ depth of cold frame growing space.

Growing edibles outdoors in the Pacific Northwest is easy in the summer, but is greatly enhanced throughout the rest of the year with the help of protective structures like greenhouses, poly tunnels, and cold frames. Last year, we had none of these when we started getting seedlings going which meant that we didn’t have harvestable food until late June/ early July. Since our desire is to grow more of our own food ourselves and to partially support our lifestyle with market sales, I knew that building some early growing spaces would be key this year and that DIY cold frames would be easy and affordable structures to start with.

I actually built these back in January, but have been holding off on featuring them in a blog post until they had some good-sized plants growing in them. That said, now is still a great time to build some of these for yourself. Our weather is still very iffy and there are lots of seedlings that will do better in these right now than out in the open.

Check out how awesome our bok choi and kale seedlings are looking in their cold frame!

I’d had the idea to put some cold frames in this location for over a year now. I’ve parked them against the south-facing wall of the garage. It gets a ton of sun and it seemed like a major lost-opportunity not to grow something against it. However, digging into the ground next to it wasn’t an option since it consists of years of driveway-spread gravel. Being thoughtful about the locations of things is important. I knew that this space had major sunlight and heat potential, that it would provide early seedlings with a great starting-out space, that it would provide heat-lovers like tomatoes and basil a mid-season living spot, and that it would serve as a close-to-the-home growing spot for winter greens. So, how to start? I choose the library.

I found a book at the library with lots of DIY garden projects in it, including the blueprints and instructions for these cold frames. These were the first construction project that I completed entirely by myself (from finding the design, picking up supplies at the hardware store, and building with power tools) and I’ve gotta say, I was feeling pretty darn capable and satisfied with myself while I worked on them in the garage in January, complete with a parka, gloves and a tuque.

So, here are the basic details (which are pretty flexible depending on if you’re using materials you just have lying around – some of which we had which is why the cold frames aren’t totally uniform in size). For one cold frame I used:

  • a 8′ x 4′ piece of untreated plywood (I chose untreated to avoid the chemicals in it, however, since these will be living outdoors, it may have been an unwise choice. I still painted the exteriors black for heat absorption – chemicals anyways, and lined the insides with poly plastic to protect the wood – which would have in turn protected the seedlings and soil from chemical treatments. So, not sure what would have been the best route to go with that).
  • approx. 50′ of 2x2s
  • poly plastic ( a 4.5′ x 5.5′ piece for the lid) and more if you want to line the inside with it.
  • 2 hinges
  • screws
  • corner brackets (optional)

The 8′ x 4′ piece of plywood provides everything you need for the walls of a 5′ wide x 4′ deep cold frame (see my very unprofessional drawing below :). The cold frame sits 2′ high at the high end and 1′ high at the front, low end. The 2x2s are used to build the frame of the lid and to fit inside each interior corner as well as along the interior base of the cold frame. I used 2×2 scraps for handles on the sides of the cold frames (easier to lift – with one person on each end), and for the handle on the lid. There are no bottoms to the cold frames – I just lined the gravel and weedy ground with cardboard and then layered natural mulching materials (I used straw and chicken coop shavings) inside the cold frames, followed by compost, and topped with soil.

These are the cuts I made on a 8' x 4' piece of plywood. The upper left piece formed the back of the cold frame, the lower right piece is the front of the cold frame, and the two pieces on the right formed the sides of the cold frames (1' ends being at the front and the 2' ends being at the back).

I realize my ‘instructions’ aren’t super instructional, but if you’re interested in building some of these for yourself and have more questions, feel free to leave your questions in the comment section of this blog post and I’ll respond with more details.

In conclusion though, these cold frames have been great so far! As you can see, our greens are growing great in them – much more robust than those that are planted in trays in our poly tunnel because their roots have so much room to spread out and absorb nutrients. I’m excited to make use of them all year long, and am now inspired to think up some other fun cold frame-y projects to create.

A shot with one of the lids in the closed position.

And another shot of them, all in a row.

One last thing…something I didn’t do, but which would have enhanced these (and which Chris suggested to me, but I was too impatient to start using them to take his advice) would have been to paint the interiors white to reflect the sun back at the plants. Next time… :)

Our first farmers market of the year this Saturday!

2013 Earth Day poster

















This Saturday marks the first Haney Farmers Market (Maple Ridge’s market) of the year and we’ll be there! It coincides with Maple Ridge’s Earth Day events, so although the market is our favorite part of the event, there will be lots of other things to see and do as well, including listening to our very own Chris Moerman play some live music!

It’s early in the year so we won’t have a huge number of edibles at our table, but we will have a few freshly-harvested things to munch on, some potted plants for you to add to your own garden, and some chemical-free cut flowers for your kitchen table. Here’s what you can expect to see at our booth this Saturday:

  • fresh herbs, including lovage, chives, mint, sage, and oregano
  • kale
  • nettle leaves (if Chris doesn’t eat them all first!)
  • pac choi
  • yu choi sum
  • potted kale starts
  • potted swiss chard starts
  • onion starts
  • potted comfrey
  • cut tulips

The market will run from 10am-2pm, alongside the Earth Day events, at Memorial Peace Park on 224th in Maple Ridge. We hope to see you there!