My Toasty Grower

Meet the latest addition to my p-patch garden -- my homemade toasty grower (a.k.a cold frame). Undaunted by the wind and rain, I installed it today. 

The name "cold frame" has always seemed odd to me.  After all, it's a frame that makes everything warmer.  Hmm.

Why would a person need one of these, you ask?  Well . . .

Basically, the sun heats up our soil and air every day -- even in the winter.  But when the soil and air inside the toasty grower is warmed, the frame traps the solar energy and the soil acts as a heatsink.  The benefit of a toasty grower is warmer-than-outside temperatures -- day and night -- inside the box, creating a more conducive growing environment to get things growing earlier.  Plus, the toasty grower will also protect seedlings from any late frosts we could get.

The key is getting enough sunlight in winter months.  In the Northwest, that can be problematic before about March.  But by late March, the sun's strength begins to return and growing in a frame becomes a possibility.  Steve Solomon's book, "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" is a terrific resource that I referred to often for this project.  It's full of all types of information about how to get the most out of your Northwest garden.

While gardening generally doesn't intimidate me, construction kind of does.  It took me half my life to build something -- and, no surprise, it's garden related.

After a refresher lesson on geometry and trigonometry (thanks for nothing Mr. Watson), I made my measurments, calculated my angles, and determined how much lumber I  would need.  I take credit for designing, sourcing, "supervising" the cutting (thanks Byron), screwing, assembling, and installing the whole thing myself. The contraption measures about 28 inches deep by 44 inches wide.  It is 17 inches tall on the back side, with a just less than a 30-degree slope front to back.  The two sides are connected to the back with L brackets so it will store flat when taken apart.  The window just sits on top.

My sketches and ideas to start
Building it.

Installation complete -- the south-facing window can be lifted off for planting or left ajar for ventilation.

The sides are made of cedar fencing. The top is a window I bought at the ReStore.  The L brackets, screws, and handles (yet to be added) came from Home Depot.

I like  the idea of adding a colorful mosaic on the back or one of the sides.  More on that once it's finished (or, I should say, if I ever start it). 

So, what to grow?  I've decided to plant arugula, radishes, and lettuce later this month once the soil has warmed up and the sun is just a bit stronger. 

Now that have the hang of this, maybe I'll build a few more . . .


Anonymous said…
Wow, good for you!! I am super impressed about figuring out how much lumber, measurements, etc. It looks great! PS. House looks awesome too - somebody is going to be so excited to get your house! - Julie
Gorgeous! I need to get my butt to the restore. I tried to find free windows online but what I got was not so pretty or functional. I'm just afraid somebody is going to throw a ball through it in my yard but I've always wanted a little start house like this! It's the perfect place for your new little plants to harden off outside in March or April.

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