A project for fine September days

Most gardeners are probably caught between wishing for rain and appreciating the glorious sunny days that have established our September 2017 norm. If you are up-to-date on routine gardening tasks, you may want to take advantage of the splendid weather to tackle a building project oriented toward your gardening future.

An ideal candidate is construction of a cold frame. This is simply a box with no bottom. It is very much like a raised bed except for its top, always a clear layer. Perhaps the simplest source for a top is an old storm window. Once you have the top, you?ll know how big a box you will need.

Scrap lumber is fine for the box, or you can use pressure-treated pine or untreated cedar. If the whole idea of constructing something scares you, kits are available ? however, you?ll pay a premium for assembled materials and instructions.

The cold frame, designed to extend the gardening season, functions like a mini-greenhouse. Place it in a garden space, and be sure to incorporate plenty of compost into the soil. Choose fast-growing, cool-loving plants that are relatively compact. Lettuce, spinach, radishes and chard are ideal.

After planting, water the seeded soil well, and place the top on the cold frame. Monitor weather carefully. On warm and sunny days, you will need to remove the lid. However, be sure to replace it every night. When nights are especially cool, you might even cover the top with an old blanket. If you are really handy, the top can be hinged so that managing the ?ups and downs? of the lid is easy.

After the last fall harvest, your cold frame can bide its time until spring. Then you can get a head start on the growing season. The soil in the cold frame will heat up faster than garden soil, and the lid will allow you to control night temperatures somewhat.