Winter’s a-coming

by David Murray

As I sit at my desk typing I can look out of the window at my vegetable plot, its raised beds and greenhouse – at the moment with a brown blizzard of leaves falling in the breeze from the horse-chestnuts . Cold frame insulation slabsThe part that I want to mention specially now is, however, just out of sight unless I lean to my left and look out at an angle. It’s the cold frame. I built it two years ago using 8-foot lengths of 6″x1″ timber and two old glazed window frames for the lid. It has served me well.

One shortcoming, though, has been its lack of insulation … until this past weekend. I managed to lay my hands on several 8ft x 4ft slabs of 2-inch thick polystyrene foam, cut in half into 4ft x 4ft pieces for ease of transport in the back of the car. They were intended originally to go in the greenhouse as internal winter walls, but there was some spare.

Cutting it to the right dimensions was quite an easy task. My old Swiss army knife came in useful once again along with a 3-metre steel rule. A cut about an inch deep across a slab, followed by a sharp snapping motion, gave clean straight edges and the sheets fit nicely between the 3″x3″ uprights of the frame.

Plastic 'washers'Of course, the transparent top is not double or triple glazed, so some additional insulation was needed there, and a double layer of transparent bubble wrap worked wonders. I fixed it to the under sides of the two window frames using a staple gun and a technique I’ve used previously with good results – cutting 6-inch plastic plant labels into shorter pieces and using them as “washers”, stapling through the plastic strip into the bubble film and the wooden frame (see above); Cold frame insulation slabsthis avoids the problem of the metal staples cutting right through the thin polythene and allowing it to float free.

So, I’ve now got a freshly insulated frame, and into it very shortly will go a lot of the potted plants which are hardy enough to survive our typical English-Midlands winter under cover but not fully out of doors.

For more on preparing the garden for winter see www.gardening-notes.com/articles/autumn.html

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