We finally had a lovely, sunny day at almost 60 degrees F, but the real factor was that there was only a light breeze. I don’t know how it’s been where you are, but here in Indiana we’ve had days of steady, strong winds with gusts up to 50mph! I’ve been around a long time, and I really don’t remember as many really, really windy days as we’ve had this year. I wanted to be able to stand upright without great effort, and more importantly, for the wood pieces to remain where I put them for assembly!
The materials were pretty simple: some 1 x 2 x 10′ furring strips, some old 2 x 4’s from the pile in the pole barn, nails. Hardware cloth was chosen to keep birds out, rather than chicken wire, and also to provide a stronger support for the plastic when the boxes are being used as cold frames in case of snow load. The 10′ pieces were cut into 6′ and 3′ for the frames, with the remaining 1′ becoming the center upright brace. The 2 x 4’s were cut at 11″, their added width providing a good base for both pieces of frame at the corners and a bit more stability for anchoring the hardware cloth. Then it was easily assembled and given two coats of stain/sealer.
I’ve always enjoyed simple wood projects, having helped my dad beginning as a toddler. He would have made these boxes much more elegantly, and in a fraction of the time, but as a close friend once said, my carpenter skills are “close enough for horticulture!” Next came the hardware cloth, which was purchased in two sizes: 24″ tall, which was cut in half to form the 12″ required for two long sides, and a roll of 36″ which covered both short sides and the top in one continuous piece.
Bless D’s heart, when I told him what I was planning to do and expressed a concern about handling the heavy staple gun with my old, arthritic hands, he ordered an electric staple gun from Stanley on-line and it arrived in two days…long before the wind quit. I’d have to say it is one of the best gifts I’ve gotten and certainly made the project more doable and much quicker. I’m sure I could not have finished both boxes in one day without it, because the sawing, hammering, and cutting the hardware cloth with tin snips took it’s toll. I should insert here, that while the stain/sealer dried I weeded the bed where this box would go, which contains “Gangbuster” spinach. And here is the finished box in its place for the winter!
The plastic won’t be put on until it’s consistently below freezing. Spinach can take pretty cold weather. In fact, there are always some spinach rows left uncovered in the potager and they normally survive the weather, but not always the critters. The covered, protected rows can be lightly harvested throughout the winter and will grow much more quickly than the unprotected rows as spring arrives, thus providing successive crops even though they were planted at the same time.
Once the weather has warmed a bit next spring and the spinach no longer needs a cover, the box will be moved to first warm the soil and then to protect very early plantings of cole crops and lettuces in other beds. When the strawberries begin to flower the boxes will be moved again to protect the blooms from a late frost. When safe, the plastic will be removed and the box will become a protective cover to keep the birds and hopefully the raccoons from harvesting ripening berries. I have four beds of strawberries, so I need four boxes. Two are finished now. Today’s second bed was built a bit taller purposely, and is now covering a bed of carrots and leeks that can be harvested over the winter. The final two beds will be built after a trip to the lumber yard for more furring strips, hardware cloth, and staples. If there is a good day to build them I will, but if not they can wait until spring. However, I will be a little more selective in my lumber purchase this time. When I was ready to stain, there were little stickers that had to be removed, and in the fine print below the bar code it said “selected pine, made in New Zealand”! We grow pine trees galore in the USA, so why would I want to buy a product that had to be shipped halfway around the world? That just doesn’t seem environmentally reasonable or responsible, so I’ll be taking my reading glasses along the next shopping trip!