Friday, February 22, 2013

School Gardens Get A Jump On the Growing Season

Posted by Linda McMulkin, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
CMG Sylvia adds the final window to
 a straw bale cold frame

Before window greenhouses and grow lights were available, cold frames were widely used to start plants that would later be planted in the vegetable garden after the danger of frost passed.   Modern technology made growing plants indoors easier and many gardeners gave up their cold frames in exchange for additional garden beds or a new shed.  But a cold frame doesn’t have to be a permanent or an expensive structure. 

CMG Terry explains how to build a
wooden cold frame.  The finished
 structure was donated to a
 local school garden.

The finished wooden cold frame. 
All photos above by C. Hopewell.
Recently, the Colorado Master Gardeners in Pueblo County taught a class on building cold frames in a local school garden.  The goal was to demonstrate how an inexpensive cold frame could extend the spring planting season, allowing for cool weather crops like lettuce and carrots to be planted early enough for students to harvest produce before the end of the spring semester.  Cold frames can be built with old windows and a number of easy to obtain materials, like straw bales, concrete blocks, boards, or door frames.   These temporary structures can then be stacked in an out-of-the-way location when the weather warms, allowing the same space to be used for warm weather crops. 
Sylvia enjoyed the class so much she went home and built a
cold frame for her garden out of a door and door frame
left over after a remodeling project.
Photo by Sylvia.
      In a letter to CSU Extension-Pueblo County Assistant Horticulturist Liz Catt, Christina Hopewell from the Pueblo City-County Health Department said, “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you and the Colorado Master Gardeners for so graciously volunteering to teach the Cold Frame Construction Class to the UGARDENS Participants.  Without the knowledge and expertise offered by your team, such an opportunity would not have been possible.  The instruction that you provided them on the multitude of different cold frame designs and materials will be critical in the upcoming weeks, and will undoubtedly enhance the sustainability of the community and school garden programs in Pueblo County”.

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