Reviving a cold frame

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DIY GRANDAD

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Reviving a cold frame
« on: June 02, 2020, 11:37 »
So it seems my poly tunnel plans have to be shelved whilst my association reconsiders its 'structure' size limitations - next Spring!

When I took over my plot last autumn I discovered a cold frame the full width of my plot (20ft) and 4 ft wide. Like most allotments this has had a succession of tenants who were not too good at growing and tending plants - or the plot ! The cold frame had obviously had various packets of seed dumped in it in foot long drills with the expected over-population and leggy results. At one end there was an abundance of bag compost obviously added at times - for the seeds presumably. The sides are about 10 inches and mostly made from sleeper dimensioned timber. But there was no transparent cover of any type.

Although this is in a sunny position facing west, I decided that due to its unknown history I levelled out the compost end etc., dug it over and planted a single row of first early spuds to give the soil a break. (Maris Bard, which is a favourite of mine I have often grown when a farm manager).

So when the spuds are harvested I will have a 'clean sheet' - given that haulm and weeds are disposed of. I can raise one long edge to put a tilt on the new transparent roof which I would prefer to make from 10mm twin wall polycarb.

So what would you suggest I should do to make the roof if there are better alternatives (please, not old glass window frames). Should I bottom it out, and lay mulch fabric ready to grow in containers. Or should I use the soil 'asis' given that it has some humus and been given a 'rest' from its haphazard past. If that is the case then I would be happy to at least divide the frame into three zones to allow a rotation of crops.

My intention is to bring-on seedlings for planting out on the main plot, grow salads with extended season, and grow other food plants which might benefit from the conditions under cover. I also use the allotment to raise plants and cut flowers for my home and my wife's courtyard garden. So I can use it for cuttings and 'resting' plants etc.

My sincere thanks to those who can offer advice.
cold frame cropped.jpg
« Last Edit: June 02, 2020, 11:42 by DIY GRANDAD »

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Yorkie

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Re: Reviving a cold frame
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2020, 21:30 »
That's a fantastic resource, although I wonder whether you may struggle with light levels next to the sides.

It also occurs to me that it might be worth sectioning it off along its length with interim walls of clear material, to enable you to have different growing conditions for plants at different stages of their development and/or grown in the ground or being hardened off.  The transparent material would mean you weren't losing any more light.  These walls could be lined up with the lids so each section was self-contained.

I am no expert on materials, but twin walled PC would ensure a little more insulation but reduce light levels a little.  I guess the alternative, as you don't want glass, would be a single layer of plastic.  This would probably not be as UV resistant but I don't know if it's easier to get hold of.
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days all attack me at once...

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DIY GRANDAD

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Re: Reviving a cold frame
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2020, 11:00 »
Thank you. I had not seen it as a 'fantastic resource'; but I guess at that size and not tucked against a wall then it is exceptional, if a little dog-eared at present.

I get the divisions matching growth stage and not rotation, but I guess you are inferring that it is best not to use the soil and cover it with membrane, preferring to grow everything in containers? Or have membrane in say one or two of three sections into which I can divide the space? Using the existing soil plus compost etc for plants which will stay till maturity.

Point taken on the roofing used. I was thinking the twin wall stuff as its so common and relatively cheap. But yes, it would cut-down on solar radiation. It seems the flat acrylic is very expensive so the alternative would have to be the corrugated type, which again is commonly available.

Do people using acrylic sheets in greenhouses have a source of second grade or obscured material, rather like the old recycled 'horticultural' glass  of years ago?

I would not consider a 'hot bed' section as some folks do, but would that limit my options/growing season length greatly? 
TIA

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DIY GRANDAD

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Re: Reviving a cold frame
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2020, 19:39 »
On the topic of suitable roofing sheets. A friend has used corrugated sheet and with a jigsaw, made random slots at the bottom of the corrugations for 'self watering'.

He says it has no noticeable effect on air temperatures, but that it eliminates fear of the soil drying out - he uses the natural soil in the base, not containers or growbags. Does anyone else have experience of this?

It has also been suggested to me that with the corrugated sheet a gutter can be attached under the lower edge, and a hose or hoses led into the frame with a perforated irrigation tape/s attached, again with the same result. Has anyone tried that please?

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Yorkie

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Re: Reviving a cold frame
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2020, 11:36 »
I've not heard of either of those.  Obviously, if it's shown to work for your friend then all good.  However, I'd be surprised that it had no effect on temperatures, and concerned that the plants at the opposite side of the frame from the holes in fact wouldn't get sufficient water.

Guttering + seep hose sounds interesting, although fully dependent on a consistent amount of rainfall.



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