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last saturday i made my first trip of the season to our local farmer’s market.  i was admittedly a bit distracted, since I was only there to scavenge out fresh ingredients that i could use as pizza toppings for ross’s surprise 30th birthday party that evening.  but i couldn’t help but noticing that one farmer had a massive amount of tomato and pepper seedlings for sale. 

i know you must be thinking “what the heck are you oogling seedlings for when you’ve just spent massive amounts of time coddling your very own tomato and pepper seedlings into life?”  and that’s a very good question.  but i can only answer truthfully, which is, his seedlings were so much prettier than mine.  and i was jealous. 

so i bought four red “Carmen” bell pepper seedlings (which were approximately 10 times bigger and healthier than the ones growing in my garage right now) and felt a little bit better.  but that got me thinking:  how could I get nice seedlings earlier in the season – barring setting up a $5,000 fully heated greenhouse?

i read an article today with some info on a concept i’ve wanted to try for a while:  build a cold frame. 

the general concept of a cold frame is that it basically functions just like a greenhouse, except you can’t walk inside it, it’s subustantially smaller, you don’t have to run electricity to it, and it’s exponentially cheaper.  what’s not to love, right?

coldframe

So just like in a greenhouse, the combination of the sunlight coming through the glass and the way the plants are closed off from the outside elements, creates a much warmer atmosphere than the regular air temperature.  therefore plants that wouldn’t normally be able to germinate in the cold temperatures of winter can do so.  it actually can get so warm inside a cold frame that opening it a crack to regulate the heat, is a must, or the plants will get scorched.  even in mid-march.

the article I read  suggests a cold frame that looks more like the first picture below, which definitely has its benefits, but the most standard looking cold frames (another article here) have the general shape of the second picture below.

cf03

cold_frame

obviously with it already being may, its nearly too late for me to use a cold frame this year, but i’ve been thinking about making one to have for this fall in order to extend my harvest into november and even december.  by that time, usually only things like greens, lettuce, broccoli, and radishes can be grown, but who wouldn’t like a fresh picked salad at thanksgiving, when all the grocery store lettuce is looking pretty beat up?

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