By MSV Horticulturist Chantal Ludder
It was around this time last year the MSV replaced the original windows on the building for newer, more environmentally conscious ones. Since the old windows were not of use to anyone else, and probably would have been left to languish in a landfill otherwise, the Gardens and Grounds Department quietly laid claim and spirited them away to our workshop. To be honest, I’ve never been more pleased to be in possession of a pile of debris in my life. Old windows, especially the large, sturdy ones, do not run cheap. They are also hard to find in any real quantity, especially if you are looking for a uniform size. Until this happy little windfall, the Museum was unable to offer the workshop I’ve wanted to run for years: Building a Cold Frame.
Cold frames are one of the workhorses of the American garden. They can be built out of nearly anything, so long as the end result is an enclosed area with a movable transparent roof (think tiny greenhouse). Most traditionally, they are angled wooden boxes with a hinged window lid – allowing the gardener to fit a few pots or flats of flowers or vegetables in there. The lid can be raised or lowered depending on the temperature and levels of sunlight. Cold frames have a wide range of uses, from creating a hardening off space between windowsill and garden, to extending the natural season for spring and fall crop production, to storing tender perennials, to assisting the gardener in growing some of the more finicky bulbs, and more.
Every gardener should have a cold frame at her disposal. You may certainly purchase one online, if you find the curious combination of excessive cost and low quality appealing, or – you make your own. If you know how to go about doing that sort of thing. And own an array of power tools. And a workspace.
So you can understand my excitement and sheer joy when the MSV said, “We’re doing this.” We’re cleaning up the old windows. We’re cutting lumber, counting hinges, and commandeering every power drill across the Museum departments. We’ve reserved both the classroom and the Makerspace Studio. On March 22 and 23 (pick the day that suits you best), the MSV will be offering a make-and-take workshop on cold frames. I’ll be presenting a lecture on the different types and uses of cold frames for the home gardener. After a Q&A, we will head next door where folks will each claim a kit and put together their very own cold frame using recycled MSV windows. Staff will be on hand to walk everyone through the build process, and offer as much or as little assistance as needed.
Here I do need to offer a word of— not caution, but a note for consideration. After you screw together the boards, and hinges, and handles. After we all step back and admire a batch of lovely cold frames, possibly while posting some pictures to Instagram, before you drive off into the sunset with your beautiful cold frame and your plans for your greatest garden to date, there will come the time to load the sturdy cold frame into your vehicle. There will also come the time to unload the sturdy cold frame from your vehicle. MSV staff will cheerfully help you get your project into your car —so long as it fits. You will probably need a friend to assist you when you get home. Due to the size of the recycled windows, your cold frame will be 5’7” long, 2’10” wide, and weigh in (we estimate) at 65 lbs. We will leave the type of bribe you offer your friend for their help with the unloading to you.
Sign up to for an afternoon of fun and learn how to create your own cold frame garden during a Constructing Cold Frame program offered on March 22 and March 23. Space in the workshops is limited and early registration is strongly encouraged. I hope you see you!