Building moveable cold frames/row covers

This has been kind of a fun project we’ve tackled this year. Last year was the first year we had an actual vegetable garden. Tom didn’t really bother with the landscaping until I moved here (which was officially in about 2017, I think). He put most of his efforts into the house itself, so its only been a short while that we’ve been focusing on working on the land.

I started working on the gardens and landscaping in October 2018 when I planted a few dozen bulbs in a row in the grass out front, and a few behind the house. A good portion of those survived, given that they weren’t planted properly because we were in a rush as we were preparing to leave the country for a couple of months. 

In 2019 I expanded that row of haphazardly planted bulbs by properly creating a flowerbed around them in the front of the house and by creating a flower and tomato bed around the back deck, and in front of the dining room and a small strip behind the garage…

The above photo is after the tulips died off in the front bed and during the fall sunflower season. We had planted a few sunflowers around and these I stuck in around the third week of June as an afterthought. They did the best of all the ones we planted.They turned out fantastic! So fantastic that we’ve now embarked on growing possibly-giant sunflowers this year.. stay tuned haha.

Last year was a crappy season to start the vegetable patch though (first pic in this post), it was cold until late June and everything growing was delayed… the first tomato wasn’t eaten until the end of August so maybe it was not the best year to start growing things here, but there is no better time than today – to start.

In the past I’ve had a few other veggie garden projects at my old house but my backyard was mostly shade so that was never a success and I didn’t want to grow in the front above the septic and near a busy major road. After that at the Green house where I lived for a while with a sibling I made an attempt at container gardening but kind of flopped because I didn’t get the right soil and I did not water sufficiently. I did alright with some of the perennial landscaping efforts but never so much with growing food… primarily because of lack of time and knowledge. I resented gardening at my old house because of the traffic on the road, the noise bothers me, the sounds of the trucks gearing down got on my nerves and I was glad to sell the place. Here things are peaceful, the road is quiet and neighbours are farther. 

Last year was the first year I really got a chance to give it a good try outside here and it worked out pretty well, given the poor growing season. I was able to grow and store winter squash and pumpkin, and tomato sauce and paste and various herbs and peppers and beans that we are still eating the canned and frozen goods from now! Safe to say we are expanding in what worked last year… and adding to it. 🙂

We’ve had to do quite a bit of pre-planning, and I’ve spent quite some time saving, sorting, ordering and reading about seeds.. and then starting seedlings beginning in February to get ready for 2020 growing season. Last year was terribly cold so this year we wanted to plan to deal with that. Our season here on PEI is already so so so short that the delay in warmth and a very long cold spring deep into June in 2019 caused the tomatoes to never ripen on the vine, but we managed to box ripen them indoors to make pasta sauce well into October. This year we decided to up our game and create some moveable structures to be able to 1. Start things earlier and keep things moist better during germination and 2. Extend the season.

We designed our own moveable structures from 50cent 4ft cull lumber pieces from Kent, plastic piping tubing ripped out of Toms old property (and some newly bought) and 6mil vapour barrier.

Tom researched a bit about hot points on row covers and used some old spray paint to give them a white tint to reduce breakdown of the plastic over the hoops. The rest was brain power, some screws and holes and off we went.

The first one went in place behind the house in a warm protected spot about 6 weeks ago (near the third week of April as this post will be delayed a little bit) with radish, onion, kale, lettuces, swiss chard and leeks. The second one went down in the garden about two weeks after the first one with beets, kohlrabi, carrots and onions under it. We also planted a few rows of peas without cover. As I’m writing this mid-May, everything under the covers have sprouted, but it is still cold with the occasional snowflake so growth is slow – even under the covers.

Some crops last year did really well, but I had poor luck with greens and beets and poor germination of the carrots. Hopefully this will improve things!

So far we have two in place, and we will build a couple more as we go along and plant things.

As I am writing this it’s May 5 so it is only early in the season. The frostdate isnt until May 20orso, but the real date for heat-loving veg like tomato and pepper isn’t until close to mid-June. We plan to move along the covers as the cool crops mature, and use them for the next batch of sprouts… so that overall we only need a few structures. They cost very little to build, $5-10 with the cost of a roll of plastic, and maybe 30 minutes to out together.. excluding dragging all the tools out.

I’m curious to see how this will extend the season, or if it will at all… so far I’m impatient. Time will tell!

Published by Renée

I write about my life, travel and my financial up and downs on my blog, Nickel By Nickel, while contradicting myself daily. ;)

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