Last year, I dug up the entire front yard for the garden. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to build raised beds for the front and the back yards, so we decided to test our luck planting beans, peas, spinach, zucchini and carrots directly in the ground.
It did not go well, to say the least. The soil was just too rocky and full of huge tree roots for anything to grow successfully (save for some carrots). We also realized that most of the front yard doesn’t get enough sun to grow many light-loving vegetables.
This year, I decided that the best solution would be to build some cold frames. It meant that we wouldn’t have to plant directly in the ground and that we could channel the sunlight into the boxes, keeping the soil inside warm and making the most of the sun that does come into the front yard.
Plus, when the previous owners (or two owners ago?) replaced the windows on the house, they stashed all the old ones in the garage. And when we found a stack of 2×6′ boards at Significant Elements for about $1/yard, it was a done deal.
We roughly followed the tutorial from This Old House, but simplified it greatly (we skipped the battens, aka Steps 5-11, entirely, and didn’t make our frames collapsible).
While Dan cut the boards to length and cut the angles, I sanded the windows, taped off the frames and painted them with leftover paint from our porch steps (Behr Premium Plus Paint & Primer in One in Cherry Bark).
Then we attached the sides and assembled the boxes.
While Dan finished the assembly and stapled a layer of weed block to the bottom of each frame, I laid out the brick foundation, which provides a flat surface and helps collect heat. I filled each “foundation” with a layer of rocks and dirt to support the weed block from below and keep pests from getting in.
Then we lined them up in the front yard and got to filling them with a 50-50 mixture of peat moss and top soil, topped off with a thick layer of compost. I’ve planted lettuce in one, and plan to plant the other two with more lettuce, spinach, arugula and herbs this weekend.
(Yes, I realize the rest of the front yard looks ugly at the moment. We will be planting some shade-tolerating wildflowers and ground cover around the raised beds once we are past the risk of cold snaps and frosts.)
Our Total Cost: $15 ($60-ish once you account for the top soil and compost…we already had peat moss left over from last year). Granted, we were very lucky to a) find the boards at such a cheap price and b) already have windows in the garage and a large stash of bricks in the backyard (not 100% sure why they were there in the first place, but they came in handy!).